Today we celebrated Meskel with the people of Adigrat. What is Meskel? Here’s a good summary from Wikipedia:
This Demera-procession takes place in the early evening the day before Meskel or on the day itself, according to local traditions. The firewood is decorated with daisies prior to the celebration. Afterwards, charcoal from the remains of the fire is collected and used by the faithful to mark their foreheads with the shape of a cross (compare Ash Wednesday).
Meskel is an annual religious holiday commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. Meskel occurs on 17 Meskerem in the Ethiopian calendar (September 27, Gregorian calendar, or September 28 in leap years). The Meskel celebration includes the burning of a large bonfire, or Demera, based on the belief that Queen Helena 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 raised high up to the sky and returned to the ground, exactly to the spot where the Cross had been buried.
We watched in awe as a huge fire was created by lighting a large, vertical pile of wood. After the fire was made, the people circled it with singing and dancing. We then saw them take sticks dipped in charcoal to make crosses on their foreheads.