Festivals in Ethiopia are typically colorful and exciting. The country has cultural, religious, and other festivals that can attract foreign tourists and local participants to come and gather to watch the procession and take part. The most known name of which held every year in Amhara and Tigray States is Shadey, Ashendye, Solel, Mariya, which is the name for a tall grass that young women usually tie around their gowns as a type of decoration. The celebration days also herald the freedom of young women. It is a popular festival which reverberates the voice of young women loudly.
Young girls or participants usually attend the occasion by dressing jeweler, embroidery, and hairstyles. It is a famous girls’ or young women’s festival among some of the most popular festivals celebrated in Ethiopia. It has been celebrating annually for centuries in the northern part of Ethiopia specifically in Tigray and Amhara States.
Nowadays, it is also celebrated in capital Addis Ababa During the time, young women celebrate the festival with songs and dances dressing traditional clothes and doing traditional hairstyles. The festival sounds for a weeklong following the feast of Buhe in the tradition of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. People celebrate Buhe on August 19 every year. The day for Followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church represents the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on Mount Tabor.
August is a special month for northerner Ethiopian girls and women because it is a month in which the girls of Tigray and Amhara highlighted by games and preparation to celebrate the New Ethiopian Year.
Culturally, Ashendiye is celebrated in households with baking special bread (mulmul) and a small bonfire organized at individual residence or community in the neighborhoods. Children or Kids go house to house chanting “Bhunena Buhebelu.” The household gives either mulumul or bread or coins.
During this festivity, girls and young women attend the festival gathering together by dressing traditional attire. The whole community and government officials take part or attend the festival. People considered the celebration as respect given for females especially girls and women throughout the year. It is also considered as the value of declaring gender equality.
Before the celebration begins thousands of people march to the areas that host the festivity. Now, the festival has been attracting many local and foreign tourists. In both states, the festival is celebrated across certain districts. For instance, Ashenda is celebrated colorfully in Tigray State while Shadey in Wag Humra, Ashendiye, and Solel in Lalibela and Kobo respectively took place colorfully in North East Amhara.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism has been trying to inscribe the unique females’ festival as a cultural heritage. The annual event enables the target group to engage in different fun activities such as dancing drumming, and socialization.
The occasion usually takes place between August to September with traditional dressing, cultural costumes, and dances. As to documents, such kinds of festivals enable the world to increase and consolidate efforts at combating child marriage and gender-based violence. It develops the confidence of girls and young women. As part of their cultural celebration, the girls and women gather together in a central place where they divide themselves into smaller groups before going house to house to sing, dance, and entertain the people of their community. The festival makes people feel warm in a cold season.
Moreover, Buhe, Irrechaa, Ashenda /Shadey/ Sollel/Ashendiye are among the remarkable centuries-old cultural festivals celebrated colorfully across the country. In the northern part of the country, women’s festivals stand shoulder high in enticing the attention of both local and foreign tourists.
These festivals mark the end of a fortnight’s fasting season, but the mode of the celebration has variation from place to place. Young girls are the main participant of the festival for Shadey or Ashendiye or Solel dressing elegantly in traditional new cloths which are admirably decorated with long bulrush grass (Ashenda which the name of the festival is derived from). And they sing traditional songs in groups and a euphonious voice.
The festival also displays the peculiar traditions and cultural values of people. This goes on the entire day and throughout the festival period. To close the celebrations the women and girls convene in a central area to drum, dance, sing and socialize.
The yearning of both domestic and foreign tourists to participate in the women’s festival is growing from year to year. The Federal and State governments are working in coordination to promote the festival and thereby add something worth for humanity and attract more tourists.
Thus, Efforts are being continued to ensure the ceremony attains an intangible cultural heritage status under the United Nations Education, Cultural and Scientific Organization, UNESCO classification.
Recently, the government has announced that the festival will be marked at home due to the risk of COVID-19. Thus, government officials and religious leaders are calling on the public to stay at home and celebrate ceremonies keeping social distancing with limited participants.
According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, efforts are underway and the ministry has been striving to inscribe the festival as world heritage and preserve the values of the festival as it is unique in its value of declaring freedom for women. Thus, for its enormous contribution to fostering equality of women, sensuous beauty and aesthetic value of humanity Ashenda is likely to be inscribed as intangible heritage by UNESCO shortly.