Exploring Ethiopian Festivals – Celebrations of Culture and Community

Festivals in Ethiopia fill the year with exciting events, from the dancing at Timkat to the bright colours of Meskel. These festivals are a big part of what makes Ethiopia special.

At Taitu Tour and Travel, we ensure your trip aligns with these great times, so you don’t miss out on the fun. While you’re enjoying the festivals, an Ethiopia Safari will show you the country’s wild animals and beautiful places, making your visit even more memorable.

Ethiopian Christmas (Leddet/Genna)

Festivals in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Christmas, called Genna (also called Leddet), happens every year on January 7th. This holiday is distinct from Christmas celebrations elsewhere, deeply rooted in the rich religious traditions of Ethiopia Festivals.

Before the celebration, there’s a 40-day fasting period where people don’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy. Genna starts with an all-night vigil and a church service that goes until morning.

The day is about spending time with family, playing traditional games, and enjoying festive meals, making it a significant cultural and religious event in Ethiopia.

DateJanuary 7th each year
Preceding Events40 days of fasting known as Tsome Gehad, night-long vigil
Main CelebrationChurch service that lasts through the night into the morning of January 7th
Traditional MealDoro Wote (spicy chicken stew), typically the first meal after the fasting period
Cultural ActivitiesPlaying Yegenna Chewata, a traditional game similar to hockey, is believed to have been played by shepherds on the night Jesus was born
Best Places to ExperienceAxum and Lalibela, known for their vibrant celebrations and historical significance

Ethiopia New Year – Enkutatash

Ethiopians celebrate the Ethiopian New Year, called Enkutatash, on September 11th or 12th.This special time marks the end of the rainy season, bringing a fresh start with beautiful landscapes covered in yellow Meskel flowers.

Enkutatash, meaning “Gift of Jewels,” is a time of joy and new beginnings celebrated with family and friends. It’s a major part of Ethiopia’s festivals, filled with traditions like singing, dancing, and lighting torches that light up communities across the country.

Join in the celebrations that show the unique calendar of Ethiopia, which includes 13 months, making it an extraordinary event in Ethiopia holidays.

DateSeptember 11th or 12th
 Cultural PracticesTorches of dry wood are burned in front of houses; children, dressed in new clothes, sing and dance through the neighbourhoods.
Traditional ActivitiesGirls go door-to-door singing and receive bread or money; everyone jumps over the ashes of the torches to welcome the new year.
Best Place to ExperienceAxum, where the festival ties to the historical arrival of the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon

Great Ethiopian Run

Great Ethiopian Run

The Great Ethiopian Run is the largest running event in Africa, held every year in late November. It attracts over 40,000 people, including some of the world’s top runners.

This popular event is a big part of Ethiopia’s celebrations, offering both locals and visitors a chance to experience the excitement of a large-scale race in the vibrant setting of Addis Ababa.

Participate in the excitement of the Great Ethiopian Run, a key highlight among Things to Do in Ethiopia.

DateLast or second last Sunday of November
Number of ParticipantsMore than 44,000, featuring elite and casual runners
SignificanceHighlights Ethiopia’s enthusiasm for sports and community events
ActivitiesRunning, local festivities, music, cultural displays
Ideal Viewing Spot   Routes along the main streets of Addis Ababa

Meskel – Finding the True Cross

Festivals in Ethiopia

The Meskel Festival is an important event for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, celebrating the discovery of the True Cross by Empress Helena in the fourth century.

Recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance, this festival is a highlight for anyone on Ethiopia Tours and Safaris. The most iconic part of Meskel is the lighting of the Damera, a huge bonfire, which is accompanied by colourful processions, dancing, and singing.

People across Ethiopia celebrate it with great enthusiasm, holding the biggest event in Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square.

DateAnnually around September 27
UNESCO RecognitionRecognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Main AttractionThe Damera bonfire, symbolises the discovery of the True Cross
Key ActivitiesCeremonial processions, dancing, singing, and feasting
Best Place to ExperienceMeskel Square in Addis Ababa; vibrant celebrations also in Axum and Gondar
SignificanceMarks Empress Helena’s discovery of the True Cross
Cultural ImpactHighlights Ethiopian religious traditions and community spirit

Timket (Epiphany)

Festivals in Ethiopia

Timket, also known as Epiphany, is a vibrant celebration that marks one of the high points of the Ethiopia Tours and Safaris calendar.

It commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, highlighted by the rare public appearance of the Tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.

This three-day festival fills with music, dance, and colorful ceremonies, attracting both locals and tourists into an unforgettable cultural experience.

The highlight is the blessing of the waters, a ritual that involves sprinkling blessed water on participants, symbolizing renewal and purification.

DateCelebrated in January, the exact date varies each year
Main AttractionProcession of the Tabot, a sacred symbol only displayed during Timket
ActivitiesOvernight vigil, ceremonial processions, singing, dancing, trumpeting, and incense burning
Cultural SignificanceCelebrates the baptism of Jesus, a key event in Christian theology
Best Places to ExperienceGondar, at Fasilides’ Bath; Addis Ababa at Jan Meda
Unique PracticesTabots are returned to churches after festivities, except St. Michael’s which stays out an extra day

Irrecha Festival

The Irrecha Festival is an important event in the Ethiopia holiday calendar, where the Oromo people celebrate their heritage by giving thanks for blessings and praying for prosperity.

Communities gather near bodies of water to express vibrant gratitude, filling the day with traditional songs, dances, and prayers.

This festival reflects the rich cultural diversity of the Oromo and draws visitors interested in Ethiopia’s Tourist Attractions.

DateIrreechaa Tulluu: May; Irreechaa Malkaa: Late September or early October
Seasonal SignificanceIrreechaa Tulluu marks the rainy season’s start; Irreechaa Malkaa celebrates the dry season and harvest
UNESCO RecognitionPart of the Gada system recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016
Best Places to ExperienceNear bodies of water in Oromo-populated regions, particularly around Addis Ababa
ActivitiesCommunity prayers, singing, dancing, and sharing meals
Who ParticipatesOpen to everyone, attracts people from various backgrounds

Celebrate Ethiopia’s Amazing Festivals

We’ve seen how special Ethiopia’s festivals are, bringing everyone together with fun and colourful traditions. From the exciting races of the Great Ethiopian Run to the joyful celebrations of Enkutatash, every festival tells a story.

Come see for yourself with Taitu Tour and Travel. Enjoy Ethiopia safaris and join in the Ethiopia festivals. Book your trip now and be part of the excitement and community in Ethiopia.

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