Commemoration feast of the finding of the True Holy Cross of Christ


Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2011 by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)
The festival of Maskel is celebrated across Ethiopia on 26 September to commemorate the unearthing of the True Holy Cross of Christ. Celebrations begin with the building of the Damera bonfire in Maskel Square in Addis Ababa – a conical pyre of poles surrounded by bundles of branches and torches, decorated with green grass and Abyssinian daisies symbolizing the New Year. Hundreds of thousands of people from diverse communities flock to the square as colourfully dressed priests chant hymns and prayers and perform their unique rhythmic dance in front of the pyre. At the climax, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church lights the bonfire. Maskel is celebrated nationwide regardless of age, gender, language or ethnicity. Participants are believed to receive spiritual rewards from the celebration and blessings from the Holy Cross. Local churches play a key role in coordinating communities and safeguarding the element. The festival is also a time when families get together and migrant workers return home – reunions that result in the inflow of money, information and new ideas from urban centres to rural areas. Prior to the celebration, personal quarrels and social disagreements must be resolved. In this way, Maskel is an occasion for Ethiopians to promote their spiritual life through reconciliation, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.