Meskel is the Orthodox Christian holiday commemorating the finding of the True Cross on September 27th
Necklaces bearing the archaic cross are sold by the handful
The Demera, a towering structure akin to a Christmas tree, is the centerpiece of the plaza
My Habesha (Ethiopian) friend accompanied me to the ceremony in the city centre’s aptly named Meskel Square. Having a local take you to cultural events is infinitely better. They offer additional information on otherwise enigmatic symbols, and they are essential to helping you leave an arena brimming with thousands of Habesha trying to exit at the same time.
Perched atop her float, Queen Helena finds the True Cross in the 4th century.
The haunting music rises in a steady crescendo, as thousands of people light candles, putting any rock concert filled with lighter-wielding fans to shame.
The climax of the celebration is marked by the burning of the Demera. Smoke blankets the arena and the cloud swings in my direction. The surrounding netela-clad mass shriek in excitement. The smoke favours our section. An unmistakable sign of good fortune. Fireworks crackle two rows in front me. Meskel square is the mother of all fire hazards. But, for at least a moment, I am enchanted. Spellbound, I board Queen Helena’s float to find the True Cross with Ethiopia
Devon Krainer is a program manager in evaluation with a focus on impact investment programs. Her professional experience includes microfinance and financial analysis, monitoring and evaluation, social innovation advocacy, and business development and proposal writing, spanning the private and non-profit sector. She holds an honours bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business, a post graduate diploma in Social Innovation from University of Waterloo, and a certificate in Program Evaluation from Laurier University. She is currently pursuing a CFA designation.