image source, Amensisa Negera/BBC

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, celebrating the Meskel festival, came together in the capital, Addis Ababa, after most of the faithful skipped last year's festivities due to the pandemic.

It is the first big festival of the Ethiopian religious year and marks the finding of the cross that Jesus was crucified on, according to Orthodox Christian tradition.

The authorities did not enforce Covid-19 restrictions with many among the thousands of celebrants without masks.

The highlight on Sunday, which was the eve of the festival, called Demera, is the lighting of a bonfire in the centre of the Meskel Square – a huge public plaza at the heart of the capital.

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It signifies the efforts made by St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, to find the cross while in Jerusalem in the 4th Century.

image source, AFP

The Orthodox tradition says that while in Jerusalem, St Helena was advised to light a fire to show her where to look.

The smoke from the fire led her to the cross.

image source, Amensisa Negera/BBC

Demera is a colourful occasion which attracts worshippers from the numerous Orthodox churches in Addis Ababa.

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The faithful wore different coloured outfits representing which church they had come from.

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Instruments also play a huge role in proceedings, with a meaning behind each one.

The 10-stringed begena is often heard in church and helps in meditative prayer.

image source, Amensisa Negera/BBCimage source, Amensisa Negera/BBC

Some wore costumes, such as Roman outfits, directly related to 1st Century Judea, the time and place Jesus lived.

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All photos by Amensisa Negera, Getty Images and AFP.