A Holiday colorfully celebrated at the Meskel Square

Meskel is an annual religious holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. The Meskel celebration includes the burning of a large bonfire, or Demera, based on the belief that Queen Eleni had a revelation in a dream. She was told that she shall make a bonfire and that the smoke would show her where the true cross was buried. So she ordered the people of Jerusalem to bring wood and make a huge pile. After adding frankincense to it the bonfire was lit and the smoke rose high up to the sky and returned to the ground, exactly to the spot where the Cross had been buried.

There are two occasions on Meskel. The first is Demera which takes place on September 26 at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, in which bonfires are built topped by a cross to which flowers are tied. The flowers are Meskel Daisies. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church orchestrates the lightening ceremony. After the bonfires are blessed they are lit and dancing and singing begins around them. Priests in full ceremonial dress sing around the bonfire. While the Demera is set on fire there is an inner feeling of brightness for all those who are around it. Little Demera are also built at individual houses or villages. After some time, splinters from the bundles of burning wood collapse. Which direction they fall is very significant: north, south, east or west Interpretations are soon conjectured as to whether the fields of grain are going to be plentiful or not, or there is peace all year round, etc.  At the closing of the Demera, a rain shower is expected to fall to help put the fire out. If the rain falls and the fire is extinguished, there is a belief that the year will be prosperous. 

The day after the Demera is Meskel. This day is observed with plenty of food and drink as believers go to the spot of the Demera and, using ashes from the fire, mark their heads with the sign of the cross. The festival coincides with the mass blooming of the golden yellow Meskel daisies. The best place to see the Meskel Festival is in the capital Addis Ababa at the famous Meskel Square. But all along the Historic route (Bahir Dar, Gonder, Axum, and Lalibela) and in other major towns, Meskel is colorfully celebrated.

Meskel Demera Tour for interested delegates

If you are interested to attend the show, please send us your name, country and your passport number to  Hiwot Mulugeta ( and copy to,  3 weeks prior to the conference in order for the tour agent to work with the Ministry of Tourism and get badges. The badge will give you access to a tent that will be setup for tourists with a close up view of the entire ceremony. Delegates will be picked up from their respective hotels and dropped back at the end of the ceremony.

The Show entry and badges are FREE, however transportation costs from your hotels will be starting from US $15 to $25 per person depending on the number of delegates. 

Details below:
  • Minimum 7 delegates: 25USD per person
  • 8 to 14 delegates:  20 USD per person
  • 15 to 24 delegates: 15 USD per person
  • Less than 7 delegates - 40USD. There will be no cost per head for a group
  • Smaller than 7. They will just charge 40USD for the group.
MESKEL Show in Pictures