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Festivals and Event

Gena (Ethiopian Christmas)

January 7


Gena is Ethiopian Christmas, and coincides with other Orthodox Christmas celebrations around the world. The feast marks the end of the 40-day fasting period of Advent. On Christmas Eve, the faithful participate in church services through the night before celebrating with family and friends on Christmas day.

Lalibela is the most popular place to celebrate Gena, as thousands of pilgrims flock to the holy city for this celebration.

Timket (Epiphany)

January 19 (January 20 in 2012 & 2016)


The Ethiopian celebration of Timket (also known as Epiphany), is a symbolic reenactment of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. For Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, it serves as a renewal of their baptismal vows.

Timket is a two-day festival, starting the day before, when the church tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) is taken from the church to a nearby location, usually near a body of water. This is representative of Jesus coming to the River Jordan. The tabot spends the night in this location while the priests and other faithful hold a vigil through the night. In the morning the water is blessed and is then sprinkled on the gatherers (or they may chose to bathe in the water), renewing their baptismal vows. Long parades then carry the tabot back home to the church while the revelers sing and dance.

Gondar is a popular place to witness Timket, as the Bath of Fasilidas provides a stunning backdrop for the festivities. Lalibela is another popular location, as is Addis Ababa, where it is held at the Jan Meda fairgrounds.



Fasika is Ethiopian Easter and is celebrated in conjunction with Orthodox Easter celebrations around the world. Fasika is the most important holiday in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar and follows a long 55-day fast, where no meat or dairy products are consumed. Strict followers generally consume one meal of vegetables and lentils during this time. Church services are attended on the eve before the holiday, where revelers participate in a colorful service lit with candles. The following day, families and friends celebrate Fasika with special feasts that mark the end of the long fast. Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew, is the most traditional food served in all households. Celebrations continue for the following week, with an unofficial "second Fasika" the following weekend.

Axum has a colorful procession for Palm Sunday (known as Hosanna), the week before Fasika which is well worth a visit. Like most holidays, the celebration takes place the night before the actually holiday (Saturday night).

Enkutatash “Ethiopian New Year”

September 11 (or, during a leap year, September 12)


Enkutatash “እንቁጣጣሽ” is the word for the Ethiopian New Year in the official language of Ethiopia: Amharic. It represents the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia. It occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is September 11 (or, during a leap year, September 12) according to the Gregorian calendar.

The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which was fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 BC by Emperor Augustus of Rome with a start date of 29 August J.C., thus establishing the New Year on this day. The date marks the approximate end of the "rainy season". It has also been associated traditionally with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in ca. 980 BC. The Ethiopian calendar is a unique form of the Coptic calendar, derived from the earlier Egyptian calendar. On September 12, 2007 Ethiopia celebrated its bi-millennial, or 2,000 years from the Annunciation of Christ. Why is their calendar 7-8 years different from the West’s Gregorian calendar? In the West, the calendar was calculated around A.D. 525 by Dionysius Exiguus a Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer who based his calculations for the birth of Christ on an erroneous date for the death of Herod the Great. In the East, an Alexandrian monk named Panodorus did his calculations differently back around A.D. 400 for the Egyptian calendar.

The celebration is both religious and secular with the day beginning with church services followed by the family meal. Young children will receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing and boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends and adults drink Ethiopian beer. Burning of bonfire takes place on the eve of Ethiopian New Year.

MESKEL - Finding of the True Cross


Meskel (Ge'ez: መሰቀል) 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. Meskel Festival has been celebrated for over 1,600 years. Meskel (Ge'ez: መሰቀል) 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. Meskel occurs on the 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendar (September 27, Gregorian calendar, or on 28 September in leap years). "Meskel" (or "Meskal" or "Mesqel", there are various ways to transliterate from Ge'ez to Latin script) is Ge'ez for "cross".

The word "Meskel" means "cross" and the festival commemorates the moment when the crucifix was revealed to Empress Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great. The festival is also seen as a moment to welcome in the spring season by displaying the distinctive yellow Meskel daisies. The festival is known as Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in other Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant churches. The churches that follow the Gregorian calendar celebrate the feast yearly on September 14.


Thousands gather at the Square annually on 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendar (September 27 in the Gregorian calendar), with celebrations in Addis Ababa beginning in the early afternoon when a procession bearing flaming torches approaches Meskel Square from various directions. A burning pyramid (demera) is located in the center and is circled by priests in brightly colored cloaks, students, brass bands, and the army carrying around giant crosses and torches. They set the pyramid alight with their torches, and the burning pyramid is kept ablaze until dawn until the celebrations through the night have ended.

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.

Ashenda Fesitival


Ashandye /Ashenda, one of the great festivals which are unique for Lasta lalibela and further North like Sekota and Tigray, which takes place in August to mark the ending of fasting called filseta.(The time of the annunciation of saint virgin marry). It is an event most yearned by girls. Young girls dressed in beautiful traditional outfits and in small groups, go from house to house singing and dancing. The name of the festival “Ashenda” comes from the name of a tall grass that the girls make in to a skirt and wear it around their waist as a decoration.

Irecha Festival

This festivity is celebrated on Sunday that comes following meskel. Irecha means, according to Oromo’s, Thanks giving day to their “Waqa “or God. At national level, it is celebrated in Bishoftu town in Oromyia region in Lake Hora Arsedi. On the festival Community leaders and Aba Gadas address thanks to WAQA for the blessed transition from the rainy season which is normally considered as dark to the bright and colorful season autumn (Birra). On the day different cultural dressings give a very majestic to the environment and hence worth visiting.