Archive for April 24, 2008

Fasika (as I saw it :-))

I wrote the following e-mail to a dear friend from Finland [who was more interested in history, and the weather, than I ever would] on February 26, 2004. It could use a good deal of editing and might sound disrespectful to some [the sister may have always seen things her own way but wasn’t always as, shall we say, “politically correct” as she tries to be nowadays?! “Politically correct”! Now that is some concept the Democratic world is shoving down the Ethiopian throat]. But I thought I might as well post it as not many articles seem to exist on the internet regarding Ethiopian holidays [except for few impersonal descriptions by tour operators, travel agents and people who live by the camera] and, ofcouse, because there is no better way to say “Melkam YeTinsae Beal” to my home-sick Ethiopian friends!

“Fasika” (“Festivity”) or “YeTinsae Beal” (Commemoration of The Resurrection), i.e. “Easter” is a very colorful and fascinating holiday in Ethiopia! Most of my relatives are either Protestant Christians or slack Orthodox Christians so I can’t tell you much about the … historical background. However, even the strictest ‘pente’ [as Protestant Christians are called here] can’t resist getting up at 3:00 a.m. in the morning to partake of the ‘doro wot’ [chicken stew, both spicy and delicious] that Ethiopian women cook for holidays after the almost 2 month’s lent. According to the Orthodox Church calendar, the lent has set in about 2 weeks ago. I believe the western [catholic?] church has got a one-month similar lent too. Why the Ethiopian one got extended by 15 more days is because of the extra time, referred to as ‘yengus tsom’ [fasting of the kings], when the Ethiopian people are said to have prayed that God return Ethiopia to Ethiopians and that their king {who was on exile somewhere in England for the whole period} return home, at the time of the 5 years Italian occupation. A tribute to a prayer-answered, so to say.

It might interest you to know that what is referred to as ‘tsom’ [fasting/lent] in the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian context is eating every type of food except that which is a diary or meat product, Fish excluded, within either Wednesday or Friday or for the whole season of ‘lent’, also referred to as ‘Abiy tsom” or ‘yefasika tsom’. Ethiopians believe eating dairy product and meat would encourage the ‘flesh’ to indulge in sinful thoughts but vegetable food stuff like peas, beans, and the like doesn’t. This, ofcourse, doesn’t include those Ethiopians who are either Muslim or Protestant. They fast off food and water for whatever limit of time they want and eat what their heart desires when done. Which the Orthodox Christians do not consider a real ‘tsom’. [Fancy that! :-)]

So… after the 45 day’s ‘tsom’, and on the day when Christ was supposed to have been crucified [always on Friday, April 9 this year] most Orthodox Christians [including those who do not attend church regularly] would dress in neat white robes (what we call a ‘netela’) which is supposed to be an attire that angels wear, and go to the church close to them, without food. They worship, by kneeling down at the place of their choice within the ‘sacred’ grounds of the church {usually at a place of shade as the sun is severe}, crossing themselves all the while. And getting up and doing it all over again until they are worn out and unable to raise themselves. At which interval they’d take some breath and rest, listening to the word of God being preached, some spiritual songs by the priests and deacons, confessing their sins and thinking spiritual thoughts. This goes on from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m, straight!

At exactly 3:00 p.m., the priests [who have thus far taken refugee within the walls of the church] would come out with a leaf that’s supposed to represent, i imagine, the ones the whole town of Jerusalem took to greet Jesus with on His arrival there, in their hands and dipping the leaf in a “tsebel” {holy water} ask those struggling to get near them (and be as out of ear shot of those around as possible) what sort of sin they committed within the last year. Upon learning which, they order them to ‘mesged’ [worship] between 40-120 times [according to the severity of the “sin”] and give them absolution by sprinkling some of the “holy water” from the leaf on their face!


April 24, 2008 at 7:30 am 24 comments


The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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"I will speak for you, Father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint." - Antonio Salieri, from the movie "Amadeus"

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April 2008

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