The aroma of Ethiopian coffee and eTan (incense) filled the air and evoked the feeling that one was right at home. Adding to this at home feeling was the warm presence of members from Beaata LeMariam and event goers.
On Saturday, September 20th, members of Beaata LeMariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church held an ‘Ethiopian New Year’ celebration and commemorated the ‘Founding of the True Cross’ at the Jersey City Woman’s Club, located at 375 Fairmount Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Beaata LeMariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is located at West 121st in Harlem at the corner of Adam Clayton Boulevard in New York. Deacon Fanuel, who has been serving Beaata LeMariam for 5 years now, says about 100 people attend the church. Tesefayensh and Amy are among those who attend service on a regular basis. While Tesefayensh favors the church’s “ceremony of the culture” especially on major holidays, Amy, who beats the drums during services, favors “..the songs and the teachings the most, as well as the feeling of love and togetherness in the church.”
Ethiopia celebrates the New Year, also known as Enkutatash, on September 11th and the finding of the true cross, Meskel, on September 26th.
Kess Melake Selam Dagnachew Kassaku begun the celebration speaking about the history of Meskel as informational guides were handed out. Enkutatash means the gift of jewels and is the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among traditional bouquet of yellow daises. Meskel means cross and the feast observes the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. On the eve of Meskel, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together and ignited, the bundles of branches are called “Damera”.
Kess Melake Selam Dagnachew Kassaku then led worshipers around the Damera, although it wasn’t lit, as they followed and circled the Damera with lit candles. Later on in the evening, children went around tables and handed out yellow daisies that had a green, yellow, or red (colors of the Ethiopian flag) ribbon tied around them.
Artist Abay Mengist spun a wide array of music as people danced traditional dances such as Eskesta (the moving of the shoulders vigorously) throughout the night.
Tickets for the celebration were priced at $25.00 each with proceeds benefiting the church. Delectable Ethiopian food was available at no charge and drinks were reasonably priced with proceeds also going to the church.
After the celebration was well over, some people stayed behind and helped clean up while others sat together and spoke amongst themselves. They too must have felt at home.