Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians on Wednesday celebrated Meskel otherwise called the finding of the “True Cross” by lighting a huge bonfire on the eve.Meskel celebrations commemorate the discovery of the cross by St. Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century, on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
According to legend, in the year 326 AD Queen Helena went on a search for the true cross, and was unsuccessful until she received help through a dream.
In accordance with the dream, she made a bonfire and the smoke gave her direction to the spot where the cross was buried. To herald her success, Helena (known as Nigist Eleni in Ethiopia) lit torches.
In the Middle Ages, half of the cross was given to Emperor Dawit of Ethiopia by the Patriarch of Alexandria in appreciation of the protection offered to Coptic Christians.
Tens of thousands of people crowded Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa, where the bonfire ceremony (demera) is taking place led by the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Religious songs and artistic performances by Sunday-school students and priests dressed in white robes make the celebration colourful.