Ethiopia celebrates Meskel holiday amid coronavirus restrictions

Meskel - otherwise known as finding the cross - is the Christian celebration that marks the finding by Roman empress Helena of the so-called "true cross" on which Jesus was crucified. There are usually tens of thousands who participate in the drumming, dancing, and prayer. The holiday is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Ethiopia celebrates Meskel holiday amid coronavirus restrictions

But this year, only church members attended the ceremony in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa on Saturday.

The Ethiopia Meskel festival is also a time when families get together and migrant workers return home. Hundreds of thousands of people from diverse communities flock to the square dressed as priests chant hymns and prayers and perform their unique rhythmic dance in front of the pyre.

Participants of the holiday are believed to receive spiritual rewards from the celebration and blessings from the Holy Cross. Though smaller- the celebrations continued into the night and ended with the large bonfire- known as Demera.

It is believed the smoke from a bonfire showed Queen Eleni, as she is also known, the way to where the true cross was buried.