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Festivals and Public Holidays in Eritrea

 

Eritrea bases its national holidays on the Roman calendar. Orthodox events however, are based on the Julian calendar which puts these events approximately one week later than those celebrated under the Roman calendar. Muslim holidays follow a lunar calendar. Therefore the exact dates of each Muslim festivals will change every year.

The national celebrations are planned and managed by the National Holidays Coordinating Committee. Regional festivals and fairs are held throughout the country, organized by municipalities, Zoba administrations, NGO's and the Eritrean Tewahedo Church.

Resumé of Holidays and Festivals in Eritrea in 2014
Jan 01 New Year
Jan 07 Leddet (Geez Christmas)
Jan 19 Timket (Epiphany)
Jan 14 Moulid Al-Nebi
Feb 10 Liberation of Massawa (Operation Fenkil)
Mar 08 International Women's Day
Apr 18 Good Friday
Apr 20 Tensae (Easter) 
May 01  International Labor Day
May 16 - May 24 Independence Day festivities (one week)
May 24 Independence Day 
May 29 Festival of Mariam Dearit (Keren)
Jun 20 Martyrs' Day
Jun 28 Mariam Debre Sina
Jul 26 -Aug 03 Festival Eritrea 2013 Asmara Expo (one week *)
Aug 11 Debre Bizen Abune Libanos
Jul 29 Eid Al Fitr
Sep 01 Start of the Armed Struggle
Sep 11 Keddus Yohannes (Geez New Year)
Sep 27 Meskel (Finding of the True Cross)
Nov 06 Eid El Adha
Nov 11 Nigdet of Saint Georghis Orthodox Church (Gejeret)
Nov 21 Nigdet Saint Michaels Orthodox Church (Tseserat)
Nov 30 Nigdet Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral
Dec 25 Christmas

*) Every effort has been made to present an accurate list of the main events in Eritrea in 2014. We cannot accept any responsibility for any error or omission in the data shown above. Dates may vary, due  to leap years and unforeseen circumstances. For up-to-date information, please contact the Tourism Service Center in Asmara.

 

 Independence Day Celebrations - May 24 2006 - Asmara Stadium.

 Independence Day Celebrations - May 24 2006 - Asmara Stadium.

May 24 Independence Day is the most significant National Holiday in Eritrea. On May 24 1991 EPLF forces entered Asmara, re-claiming independence, after a bitter 30 years war against Ethiopian military occupation.

All but one African nation were being handed their freedom on a golden platter in the mid 1950's and early 1960's. Eritrea and its people were not experiencing that luck at the time. Due to the strategic importance of Eritrea, and United States involvement, the country and its people were handed over to Ethiopia in 1952. Independence was won in a thirty year struggle at an unfathomable price. The word 'independence' therefore has a very special meaning when used in the Eritrean context.

Independence Day is celebrated nationwide in Eritrea, but the most spectacular place to be is in Asmara, where the 1991 victory is celebrated with one week of cultural shows in Cinema Odeon and Bahti Meskerem, carnival on the main streets of Asmara, community feasts, live music on Harnet Avenue, and a colorful celebration at the Asmara Stadium on May 24.

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Martyrs Day - June 20 2009 - Asmara Eritrea.

 Martyrs Day - June 20 2009 - Asmara Eritrea.

On June 20 Eritreans residing in the country and in the Diaspora are commemorating their martyrs. The brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and comrades who paid the ultimate price, their lives, for Eritrean independence (1961-1991) and the recent war, preserving it (1998-2000). On this day the Eritreans will light candle's for, and visit the graves of  100.000 fighters that did not survive the 30 years armed struggle against Ethiopian occupation, and the recent conflict with Ethiopia

On September 1 Eritrea celebrates the start of the armed struggle in 1961. A group of eleven Eritreans under the leadership of Hamid Idris Awate attacked police posts in Western Eritrea. Hamid fired the first shot against Ethiopian government forces on 1 September 1961 at Mount Adal.

 

Afar women - Festival Eritrea - August 03 2006 - Expo Asmara Eritrea.

 Festival Eritrea - August 03 2006 - Expo grounds Asmara Eritrea.

The annual Festival Eritrea usually starts on the last Friday of July, with a cultural show that is staged at Cinema Odeon. The official opening ceremony takes place at the Expo grounds on Saturday. The Festival Eritrea in Asmara is the cultural event of the year. The festival features cultural performances of Eritrea's nine nationalities, exhibitions of art and handicrafts, models of traditional homes, traditional food and refreshments, rites and ceremonies, and scale models of Eritrean industry and ecosystems. Camels, ponies and antique railway equipment give a tour ride around the Expo grounds. The one week Festival Eritrea is the ideal event for visitors, to have fun and learn about Eritrea, its culture, and the customs of its people.

 

Meskel Festival - September 27 2005 - Bahti Meskerem Asmara Eritrea.

 Meskel Festival - September 27 2005 - Bahti Meskerem Asmara Eritrea.

Meskel is an annual religious holiday of the Eritrean Orthodox Church commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by Queen Eleni (Saint Helena) in the fourth century. Meskel occurs on 27 September. "Meskel", is Ge'ez for "cross". The priests, wearing colorful robes and umbrellas, perform dances and songs. The Meskel celebration includes the burning of a large bonfire, or Damera, based on the belief that Queen Eleni had a revelation in a dream. She was told that she should make a bonfire, and that the smoke would show her where the true cross was buried. A procession takes place from the Nda Mariam Church to the Bahti Meskeren Square in the morning. When the Damera has collapsed and the fire is extinguished, charcoal from the remains of the fire is collected and used by the faithful to mark their foreheads with the shape of a cross. It is said that direction of the  collapse of the Damera indicates the course of future events.

Leddet is the Ge'ez name for Christmas which is marked by special ceremonies. It is celebrated on January 7 preceded by a fast of 40 days.

Timket is the Orthodox Church festival of Epiphany, celebrated on January 19. Timket celebrates the Baptism of Jesus. in the Jordan River. The ceremony includes a colorful procession 

Tensae, the Orthodox Easter, is celebrated in spring. It is a movable feast with no fixed data. The celebration of Tensea varies between 4 April and 8 May.

Festival of Mariam Dearit - May 29 2009 - Keren Eritrea.

 Festival of Mariam Dearit - May 29 2009 - Keren Eritrea.

Yearly, many people flock in places like Debre Sina, Debre Bizen, Mariam Dearit, and others to pilgrimage. These festivals are attended by people from many areas. These festivals are celebrated at a national level. There are many of these traditional festivals in Eritrea.

Nigdet Saint Michael Orthodox Church - November 22 2007 - Asmara Eritrea.

 Nigdet St. Michael Orthodox Church - November 22 2007 - Asmara Eritrea.

The many Orthodox churches and monasteries have their annual ‘Nigdet’ or Saints' feast. There are many of these festivals in Eritrea. These festivals are attended by the residents of a place and its surroundings. Families visit families, with gifts as a gesture of goodwill and love.

     

 
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