Today is Meskel, one of the most important holidays on the Ethiopian calendar. There are public and church festivals throughout the country today. The elementary students prepared all through September for yesterday’s celebration at the school .
Meskel is a religious holiday that celebrates the finding of the true cross (the word meskel means cross). According to tradition, in the 4th century the Empress Helena (later St. Helena), mother of Constantine the Great, went on a quest to find the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. She had a dream in in which she was told to build a big bonfire. She had a huge pile of wood assembled and lit, and Helena threw frankincense into the flames. As she prayed, the smoke drifted up and then down to the ground, directing her to the place where the cross was buried. A piece of the cross is believed to be kept in the remote Gishen Mariam Monastery, in the Welo region of Ethiopia.
The third graders at ICS put on a musical drama of the history of Meskel. Then everyone – students, teachers, and parents – went to the soccer field for coffee ceremony, traditional snacks (nuts and grains, popcorn, and a special spicy bread) and a dancing and singing presentation by St. George’s church choir. This was followed by the main event: a big bonfire called a demera. The smoky fire symbolizes the smoke that Helena followed to find the cross.
We get a four-day weekend for the holiday. We’re headed out of town to a place in the mountains called Woliso. I might not be able to post until we get back – not sure there’s internet coverage out there – but I plan to take lots of pictures. I’ll post them – and add Meskel pictures to this post – on Sunday when I can use the faster internet connection at school.
AlohaholA, Lorna y Andreas, Yes, our new salutation combines the universal word in Hawaii, aloha, with hola, backtoback, thus creating a bilingual palindrome, don’tchaknow! Great to keep in touch with you and you are prolific in blogging, so much rich material to delve into. For some reason Andreas, I’ve been thinking about you and having your face in my mind because I don’t know if you know this but I’ve read the English translation of The Iliad and The Odyssey (twice, excellent blank verse by Richmond Lattimore, my fave). We’ve never had a long enough time to zoom in on this factoid, but when the moment arrives in the future, I’d love to sit and chat with you about this. Mebbe we could have a 2-Guy Bookclub and read Lattimore at the same time and offer commentary? Your Greek perspective, your expertise as linguist, and your sharp analysis would be fun to share. My college fraternity was Chi Psi (the first letters, as I recall, forgive the spelling, of Kailutai Psukai (Souls United) — like the four of us, Souls United. 🙂
Lorna, this summer the culinary muse visited me and I invented a new word to go with a new dish — the Holley Chop! Thought I’d share a moment with you to explain: I decided there are salsas, sauces, etc, but what about if you just want vegetable flavor and synergy in a little bowl? So at the Coop early spring I got once 1 Cippolina purple onion, one big tomatillo, 2 or 3 serrano peppers, one lime, etc. At home, prepped onion and chopped into fine dice; same with tomatillo; same with serrano peppers. Mixy mix, then dash with gourmet salt of your choice or my go-to Kosher salt, Diamond Crystal from SFBay area (still produced in ancient method, last American salt company doing this). Mixy mix, let sit a bit so salt starts doing its thing. After a bit, add dash extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lime. Mixy mix. Cover and let sit until ready, an hour or two. Use as topping on just-cooked fish or chicken breast, spread on bread or tiny cracker. The onion and tomatillo soften the bite of the pepper — a great way to get fresh veggie flavor. Also . . . I know you don’t do the hot pepper thing, but the Holley Chop Notion — fine dice, fresh veg, creative mix, salt, olive oil — can be morphed and transmorphed as you wish, as seasons progress etc.
In other news, American election seems a little low-key where we are (not in a swing state), partly because every poll since the conventions puts Obama ahead. Last weekend, longtime pollster and poll-lover Rove decided that the current polls are wrong. Gotta love Karl. 😉
Think of you and your family often and thought I’d come here and post some thoughts — what’s not to like with a place called Lorna of Arabia? (did you know there is a re-make of the famous movie in the works?) Why? What could top Peter O’Toole and Anthony Quinn?
me ke aloha pumehana,
Great to hear from you, Bryan. Holley chop sounds great – like a fresh salsa that’s green. Yummy and verstile. Not sure what you mean when you say we don’t do the hot pepper thing though… you must be mixing us up with someone else! We’re getting lots of wonderful spicy meals here in Ethiopia. Bring on the kitfo! Miss you both.