Learn about Ethiopian traditions:
“Fasika” is the Amharic word for Easter, and refers to the 55-days where Ethiopians celebrate their most important festival of the year. This festival, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is one of the most longstanding within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Because the Ethiopian Orthodox Church view the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as far more significant than His birth, Fasika is the most important Christian festival, hence it is normally one week longer than Western celebrations. Fasika sees all Christian denominations within Ethiopia, including Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, come together for a series of traditional services and activities that take place just after Easter in the Western calendar.
The closer Ethiopians get to Easter Sunday, the bigger their celebrations and the more intense their fasting. Orthodox Christians and Catholics partake in a traditional 55-day fast of all meat and animal products with Good Friday spent in preparation for the breaking of this fast after a morning Church service. This is extremely similar to Lent in the Western Church, which involves a period of 40 days of fasting in the lead up to Easter Sunday.
On Easter Saturday, the Paschal Vigil takes place where Orthodox Christians will bow down and rise up until too tired to continue. The vigil starts with sombre and sacred reflections, before dancing and music break out until the early morning. At 12am a symbolic chicken is killed, and then at 3am, everybody returns to their houses to break their fast with their family. Doro bread, a honey and milk loaf, is baked in perception, coffee ceremonies take place in the afternoon and Orthodox Christians often brew a traditional alcohol from fresh honey, called tej, enjoyed with friends and family around the dinner table.
On Easter Sunday, a sheep is killed to start the feasting and all denominations have special Services and Masses that bring their communities together. The sheep is symbolic of the story in the Old Testament where Abraham’s faith is tested when God asks him to sacrifice his only son. Just before Abraham is about to carry out God’s wishes, God sends a sacrificial lamb in his son’s place. The story is said to be a prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus’ death, being God’s only son, as a sacrifice for the world.
Fasika is a festival of celebration with climatic celebrations building up to a release of feasting, dancing and singing. These jubilations don’t just represent the Christian celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, but they highlight the wonderful diversity and vibrancy of Ethiopian culture.
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