Monday, April 16, 2012

Orthodox Easter at Hawassa University: Melkem Fasika

Deacon drumming and students singing as they prepare for procession to church
Yesterday was Easter in Ethiopia, a week later than in Europe and the US. Easter is Ethiopia's biggest holiday. Preparations begin two months in advance with the strict observance of Lent by believers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. No meat, no fish or chicken, no dairy and many do not have their first meal before mid-afternoon for sixty days. Thus Easter celebration includes a big component of breaking the fast. Observant Orthodox go to church on Saturday evening -- many of them having fasted all day -- and sing and pray until 3 am when they believe the Resurrection occurred. At that time they go home and begin Easter feasting with the delicious, spicy Ethiopian chicken stew, doro wot. Then they sleep and next morning begin a whole day of continuous eating and drinking. In the week prior, chickens, goats and cattle wandered the streets of Hawassa in huge numbers, unmindful of the mass slaughter to take place on Saturday and Sunday in preparation for the celebration.
Women students singing praise and dancing.

Male students with reeds around their heads, and turbans for the deacons.
On Saturday we joined the students at Hawassa University for their prayer walk from campus to St. Trinity church. We are always amazed how religious and devout most/many/all Ethiopians are. These are Orthodox Christian students with their own deacons. Women walk on one side, men on the other, with deacons leading the prayers and songs and drumming in the middle.

Students singing.

 We were with Rhobot, our neighbor/friend/first year student, and Dagim, Ell's student and a deacon explaining everything step by step. He said, "We are thanking Mary for bringing us Jesus, who has today ascended into heaven, his resurrection has made it possible for all of us to go to heaven." They were actually singing all this, in a beautiful melodic procession.

Rhobot, Marty and Dagim (with deacon's staff)

Marty and Rhobot

Marty and Rhobot with marchers.
 Marty and Rhobot went to church while Ell stayed back to help a young Englishman fix his motorcycle (Ell's religion). Marty and Rhobot were a bit concerned about the total patriarchy and male dominance in the church. Still, it was lovely.

Rhobot and Dagim.

Friends Walelign and Beza (left) and Dagim.      

 At noon Sunday we at lamb tibs and stomach with Rhobot's family, and later that evening doro wat (Ethiopian chicken curry) and more tibs with friends and colleagues Walelign and Beza. Nice Easter with nice friends!

Rhobot and her mom at lunch in their apartment.

Marty with Rhobot's uncle, aunt and cousins for lunch.

Marty with Walelign's brother and Beza at their parents' house for Easter tibs and doro wat.

Students singing.
Walking to St. Trinity


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