Ethiopians have been celebrating Meskel for over 1600 years. The word actually means “Cross” and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. The original event took place on 19th March 326 A.D. But the feast is now celebrated on 27th September. Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskel, tall branches of trees are tied together and decorated with yellow daisies called Meskel Flowers. During the night the branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and burned. This symbolizes the action of the Empress who, when no one would show her the Holy sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the true cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.
During the time of the year flowers bloom on mountains and plain lands and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskel even in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskel daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called “Chibo” are used to light the bundle called “Demera”