In September, Ethiopians celebrated a couple of holidays. The first was the Ethiopian New Year, on September 11. The second was Meskel, or the finding of the true cross, an important holiday for Orthodox Ethiopians.
For Meskel, I was in Addis working on a project with the Ethiopian Mapping Agency. I was lucky enough to be put up in a hotel near Meskel Square, where, appropriately, there is a huge Meskel celebration every year.
I went, heeding some advice from my friends at the mapping agency. Only brought the essentials. No money, no ID, shoved my phone in my bra. Yeah, it looked funny. Took my camera because you have to bring a camera, right? I gripped it tight and staked a spot at a rail across from the square to take some photos. Within two minutes I was essentially trapped, the crowd closing in all around me. But no worries, it just meant I wasn’t going anywhere. I settled in for the show.
It was an amazing experience. I can only describe it as a cross between a Fourth of July celebration and New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
Thousands of people cram in the square as they wait for the big event – the ball drop – the lighting of a massive pile of wood, which when lit points the way to the true cross with its smoke. (At least I think that’s the significance). The tension is palpable.
While they wait, spectators are treated to a Fourth of July-like parade of entertainment featuring singers, priests, and…priests and singers. Ok, so there’s not a whole lot of variation, but the highlights included a roving troupe of kazoo-horn playing church children and a makeshift Ethiopian flag covered ark, much like the one Noah floated on for forty days and forty nights. You know, except for all the animals. And the rain. And the wood. Ok, it was just a truck covered with an ark-shaped frame. But still pretty cool.
Other events that occurred while I stood at my rail for two hours: a woman’s hair caught on fire, a man tried to pickpocket me (Ha, sucka!), and a man who had climbed a tree to get a better view fell out. He was ok.
On to the New Year. So it’s 2005 in Ethiopia. Finally. Melkam Addis Amet (belatedly)! I celebrated with my landlady and her family. It was much like a normal Ethiopian holiday, only I witnessed the sheep slaughter for the first time. Disgusting. I also texted my friend Joanna constantly, the highlights of which you can read here.
Not much else to say about that, I suppose. Didn’t really make any resolutions, except maybe do some project this year, you know? And enjoy the time I have left here, which isn’t that long (!) actually – nine months.
So Happy New Year! Cheers!