Ethiopian Easter: A Period of Love and Forgiveness

06 Apr 2018
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                  Fenet Hailu /ENA /

Easter, ‘Fasika’  in Amharic, is one of the religious indoor holidays celebrated by followers of the Christian religion around the world. Globally, the holiday is celebrated to venerate the bereavement and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

According to some religious transcripts, the Western churches celebrate the day one or two weeks before the Eastern Church. Followers of the Eastern Coptic Orthodox Church calendar celebrate the day a week or two weeks after the Western Churches.

As a rule and tradition the Ethiopian Orthodox Church spent eight weeks, which consists of 55 fasting days in lieu of the memory of good works of Jesus Christ such as love, forgiveness and sacrifice.

“During the Abiy Tsom, which means ‘Great Lent’, all persons above 13 years old and follower of Orthodox Church refrain from eating animal products, even eating or drinking anything before 3:00 p.m,” Aba Gebregziabher Woldesamuel a priest at Holy Trinity Cathedral  of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo in Addis Ababa asserted.

Why Lent in Ethiopia is Distinct?

In most Christianity the 'Great Lent' has 44 fasting days before Easter while in Ethiopia has 8 weeks or 55 days, which is quite discrete from the others. Citing the great Fitha Negest (the chronicles of the kings), Aba Gebregziabher explained the first week of the fasting period is called 'Tsome Heraclius', which is dedicated for Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantine in 614 A.D.

“The Ethiopian Church has included the Heraclius fasting in its canons to remember the emperor for his work of bringing back the cross of Jesus to Jerusalem from Persians who invaded Jerusalem and took the cross,” he said.

The priest elaborated, “The church also included the last week of lent period ‘Semone Himamat’, which is called the Passion Week to remember Christ’s passion as the Christ fasted and tempted by Satan before he was sacrificed”.

Even though, every day has its own greatness, the last week of the lent is given a strong attention among believers because it showed the passion of Jesus and the sacrifices he has made.

 The Last Week: A Week of Repent

The last Sunday before the days of 'Semone Himamat' is called Palm Day or ‘Hosanna’ and celebrated in a very striking ritual throughout the country, he said.

As the Holy Bible indicated, Jesus Christ has entered into Jerusalem in and people exalted him by singing “Hosanna…Hosanna…!, in the highest for the one who comes in the name of David”. Ethiopians commemorate the day by adoring themselves with special attire and putting palm tree leaves on their hands and foreheads, he said.

During last week of the lent each and every day has its spiritual significance, Aba Gebregziabher pointed out, “on those days, we walk bare footed, we put on black clothes and we do not stretch out our hands for greeting others to remember the sorrow and agony that our Lord had to sustain.”

Especially on Thursday,  Last Supper, ‘Tselote Hamus’, on a day that Christ shows his absolute humility by washing the apostle’s feet, ate the last Passover dinner with them and revealed the mystery of the holy flesh and blood. In commemoration of this event in which Christ has taught humility, the followers of the Coptic Orthodox Church have continued to wash each other’s feet and took blessing from the priests before Good Friday.

Families, loved ones, neighbors and friends get together, attend church services and ate gulban “a mixture of mixed grain boiled in a pot usually prepared from wheat and beans, the priest explained.

“In Ethiopia there is a tradition of eating ‘gulban’ to remember the anguish of Jesus”, he said.

The Good Friday or ‘Seklet’ is marked in Ethiopia not only by Orthodox Church but it is highly celebrated among Catholic and Evangelical Churches. The day is marked in Orthodox Church with a prayer of benediction, and attending mass to remember the pain and suffering that Jesus Christ had to endure on the cross. Men and women go to church and attend mass from early morning till 3:00 p.m to mark the hour of the death of Jesus Christ.

According to Aba Gebregziabher, most people in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church fast for three days starting from Good Friday till Saturday mid-night. Following Good Friday is Holy Saturday locally known as ‘Qidame Shur’ everyone fasts the day and night, on the night before Easter people go to church and pass the night there in prayers  bowing down with clenched hands.

“At a couple of hours after mid-night, around 3:00 a.m having confessed their sins and seeking eternal forgiveness from God, they wrap up their 55 days of lent. People drink special drinking made of flax in culmination of the fasting season.”

Easter or ‘Fasika” Festivity:

Tseday Belete, one of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians was attending the Last Super service with her friend Bezawit Abushet at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the capital Addis Ababa. For Tseday the holiday is so special than any other public holidays.

She is planning to celebrate the day with her husband and three children at her parent's home, adding that “I am preparing myself for the great day, I bought ‘Doro’ which means ‘Chicken’, ‘ye Behil Libs’ a kind of ‘traditional dress’ for my kids and other things that are necessary for the holiday.”

For many Ethiopians Easter is among the main holidays that brings families, friends, neighbors and beloved one together. Many travels from where they were to their home town or to their village for the festivity.

The holiday is full of activities, especially for women, Tseday said, “on Saturday I prepare ‘Difo Dabo’ (a traditional circular loaf of bread made from wheat) and make ‘Doro Wot’ a spicy sauce and decorate my home. I never rest till the mid night”, she explained.

Ethiopians prepare the holiday feast, which include ‘injera’ large flat bread that resembles a bigger pan cake, varieties of stew from beef; lamb and chicken, traditional drink called ‘tela that prepared two weeks before the actual date of the holiday.

Many dress up their traditional cloth ‘Tibeb’, a cloth for women, and ‘Eje tebab’ for men and get together for having breakfast, drinking Coffee with a traditional ceremony.

Lessons to Take:

The priest, Aba Gebregziabher Woldesamuel very fond of sermonizing love and forgiveness in lent days before Easter Holiday. He usually likes to preach the love and mercy of Jesus as best model for human beings to live in harmony. “Love is our foundation; Jesus taught us a strong love, so as he loves us when he is the Lord we have to love each other without any limitation that separates each of us.”

Aba Gebregziabher belives that Jesus unites human being with his flesh and blood, washed up the disciple’s feet when he is the Lord. So everyone has to follow his steps, everyone needs to respect each other, the priest urged. People should heart on love and forgiveness in this full of hatred and conflict world.  The last week of Lent, as stated above, is a week of repent, but only a week is not enough to repent. So, the priest insists on people to remain apologetic and evade grudge in their everyday life for peace to sustain on the globe. 

 

 

 

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