If you were in Addis on 21 November and looked out in the morning you might have thought you were in Delhi, it was hard to see beyond 50 meters. There was a smog such as I have never seen before, as the smoke from hundreds of thousands of fires combined with the increasing air pollution to reduce visibility to mere meters.  This is the day – Hedar Mikael – when householders burn their compound rubbish and with the smoke it is believed that disease and sickness is taken away.


November /December (Hedar/Tahsas) sees an increase in the overall number of big Saints days. For many the harvest should now be in, and traditionally this would have been a time for celebrations.


As November comes to an end, another big day looms – Tsion Mariam – 30th November. This is one of the biggest pilgrimages in the orthodox calendar, all hotels are full for Tsion Mariam as thousands of pilgrims descend on the town and spend the night at the ancient church of Our Lady Mary of Zion (to give it it’s full name). This church is arguably Ethiopia’s most important church. It was one of the first churches built in Ethiopia back in the very early 4th century, and has been destroyed and rebuilt at least twice with destruction inflicted by the armies of Queen Yodit and Mohammed Gragn. It was here that Emperors came to seek the coronation. If an Emperor was not coronated at Mariam Tsion or at least had a special ratification service they could not hold the title “Atse’.


The church compound is worth spending some time visiting if you can arrange a stay there at another time. There are stones on which is old Sabean script, that must have been sources from far older buildings. The church built by Emperor Fasilidas has lovely frescoes aside (though only men can enter here), and the trees are full of sun birds and other iridescent birds.


November also marks the beginning of the advent or Christmas fast running from 24th November until Gena on 7th January, so its a great time for those vegetable lovers to enjoy the lovely fasting food at traditional restaurants, and the fried whole fish that is often served too.


The biggest annual Saints day in December is Kulubi Gabriel (28 December). On this day you want to keep away from the big Gabriel churches in Addis unless you want to attend the service. The roads going up to the palace above the Hilton are always blocked off as thousands head to St.Gabriel’s church. However the epicentre of this festival is another major pilgrimage is at Kulubi, a town not far from Dire Dawa and Harar. Here tens of thousands of pilgrims descend on the church, some crawling on hands and knees as a penance or to fulfil a vow to St. Gabriel.


Learn more about the holidays, saint’s days, fasts and special holidays that punctuate the Ethiopian Calendar from the Tesfa Calendar. Get you copy (donation to the Tesfa Communities required) – email:  calendars@tesfatours.com



Mark Chapman,

Owner of Tesfa Tours

www.tesfatours.com  / info@tesfatours.com

Experience the Real Ethiopia with Tesfa Tours