Capital of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Aksum is one of the best places to join a big celebration since they are widely attended even by believers coming from all over Ethiopia on multiple occasions throughout the year.
Mihila is a nocturne procession followed by hundreds of believers: originally it is a special prayer used to ask for special mercy in difficult times, but in Aksum it became a regular practice, giving the chance to appreciate all the fascination of Ethiopian spirituality.
One of the most colourful celebrations is Hosaina, on Palm Sunday that celebrates the entrance of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Lots of people come from the surrounding regions to join the 2 days celebration, where colourful processions and chanted masses are taking place.
It usually falls between late March and April, and often it matches with the European Easter.
Timket celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ and is celebrated throughout the country. The most popular destinations are Gondar and Lalibela, where most tourists attend. Aksum is more popular among the local people, that are travelling from far to enjoy this important occasion in the capital of their church, where the original “tabot” is devoutly kept.
It’s the holiest object in the Orthodox liturgy. It represents the Arc of Covenant that Menelik I abducted from Jerusalem and brought to Ethiopia. During the X century a legendary queen called Judith came to look for it, but despite burning several churches, including one of Aksum’s, couldn’t find it, also because the Ethiopian priests started to make copies of the holy Arc and kept them hided in each church. It’s only in the main celebrations that the “Tabot”, normally hidden in the “Sancta Sanctorum”, is brought out of the church: the priest allowed to carry it must follow a strict fasting program during several days prior, and will always walk on a carpet to avoid contaminating the holy object.