Events and Festivals in Lalibela
The most exciting time to visit is during a major festival, when thousands of pilgrims crowd in.
Gena (Christmas) Lalibela is beautiful; it is colorfully celebrated because King Lalibela was born in the same day of as the birth of Jesus Christ. Starting two weeks ahead of Gena, numerous peoples from every corner of the country undertake the pilgrimage to Lalibela to attend the ceremony and to get spiritual blessings. The number of foreign tourists is also unusually high at this time. During the official day of the feast, a most impressive religious service is carried out at the church of Bet Maryam and in its courtyard. Above all, what make the Gena ceremony unique in Lalibela are the dancing priests, chanting the hymns of this holy day to commemorate the birth Day of Jesus Christ. The special hymn of the day is known as Beza Kullu (literally meaning The Redeemer of All). Dancers, systra in their hands, sing the hymns of the holiday, swaying all together from north to south to the rhythm of the big drums. The dance is said to symbolize the praise made by the angels and shepherds on the night of Christmas. The chanters above the courtyard represent the angels of the heaven and those at the bottom symbolize the shepherds of Bethlehem.
Ashendiye/ Ashenda is the spectacular festival and uniquely celebrated in Lasta Lalibela and further North in Sekota and Tigray region. It takes place usually in August marking the ending of a fasting season called ‘Filseta’. (The time of the annunciation of the Saint Virgin Marry). It is an event most yearned by girls. Young girls dressed in beautiful traditional outfits and in small groups, go from house to house singing and dancing. The name of the festival “Ashenda” is taken from the name of a tall grass that the girls make it into a skirt and wear it around their waist as a decoration.