One of the two outdoor religious celebrations within the Orthodox religion and culture, Meskel holds a big place in Ethiopian culture. The celebration - which was inducted into the UNESCO’S list of Intangible World Heritage in December 2013, is known for the immensely social celebration on the eve of the holiday known as Demera.
Meskel - which is celebrated on September 27 (or September 28 during leap years) - represents the religious celebration of the discovery of the True Cross by the fourth century Roman Empress Helena. The cross is believed to be the original cross where Jesus Christ was crucified. The holiday has been celebrated in Ethiopia for over 1,600 years.
However, due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the celebration of Demera and Meskel will not be as eventful and social as previous years. Different cities have been partially suspended the celebration of the holiday because of social distancing measures and other covid19 related reasons. Addis Ababa celebrated the holiday partly yesterday. Only those persons with badges attended the holiday that once was celebrated by thousands if not millions of the city’s residents.
Kirubel Belachew - who has been celebrating the holiday since childhood - admitted that it was odd to celebrate the Demera holiday without going to the Meskel Square. “The holiday means a lot religiously, socially and culturally. It is definitely weird not celebrating it like old times” said Kirubel explaining the difference between celebrating Meskel amid the pandemic and prior to novel pandemic.However, Kirubel also understands the necessity of observing social distancing and other precautionary measures as a result of the pandemic.”We live in a poor nation. If we do not take the proper precautions, we could pay a hefty price.” said Kirubel explaining the necessity of the precautions implemented.
Eyerus Adamu - another resident of the city that was used to the annual religious and cultural celebration of the Meskel holiday - agrees with Kirubel. “It will be missed. But we must take the necessary precautions to make sure the number of COVID19 cases does not spike.” said Eyerus expressing that she is certain that Ethiopians will celebrate the holiday like before once the pandemic is gone.