Maskal

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Finding of the True Cross, 27 September

Legend has it that the cross on which Christ was crucified was discovered in the year 326 by Empress Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great. Unable to find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the smoke of an incense burner to where the cross was buried.

In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the ‘True Cross’ in return for the protection afforded to the Coptic Christians seeking refuge. A fragment of the ‘True Cross’ is reputed to be held at the Gishen Marien monastery, about 70 kilometres to the northwest of Dessie.

On the day of the festival, bright yellow Maskal daisies are tied to fronds, and piled high in town squares. Colourful processions carrying burning torches converge on a square or street corner, where a pyre is lit and revelers sing old traditional songs and dance until dawn. In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take place in Maskal Square, to the southeast of the city centre.