Ethiopian Easter(Fasika) Festival
EASTER, the feast of feasts, is celebrated with special solemnity. The church is filled with fragrance of incense and myriad’s of lights. The clergy are arrayed in their best vestments. All the people hold lighted tapers. Greetings are exchanged, drums are beaten, hands are clapped and singing is heard everywhere: “our resurrection has come, hosanna.” Men are heard saying “O Lord Christ have mercy upon us.” They pray for a blessing “O God make it to be a festival of our good fortune and of our well being! Let us have another threshing floor and another year if thou wilt.”
The ceremony starts on Good Friday. Pilgrims dressed in white fill the churches, praying, resting, and listening to the priests. There is a spiritual solemnity to the events, as priests and deacons chant for many hours to the rhythmic jingling of sistrums and beating of drums. Some of the devout pilgrims around you had their ’Last Supper’ on Thursday evening and will not be eating or drinking anything until Sunday morning. They’re physically weak, and rest or sleep within the churches in between praying.
In Lalibela, Fasika is celebrated in every church, and as a visitor you can move from one church to another. In their white shawls, the pilgrims move from church to church themselves, bowing a certain number of times in each one depending on the promises they made to God in exchange for answering specific prayers.
The ceremonies culminate with a mass in the early hours of Sunday morning. In the dark, you sit on the stone walls above the rock-hewn Beta Mariam, where the largest collection of priests and congregation is gathered. You light candles and clap to the devotional music, looking down on the several hundred priests and deacons participating in the rituals below. It is rhythmic, mesmeric and beautiful.
You can break fast with your guide’s family or enjoy a special Easter breakfast of eggs and spicy chicken in your hotel. Alternatively you join your guide for a traditional Easter lunch in his home.
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