Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia took part on Sunday (20 September) in the colourful Teketsel Tsigie Festival at the Grand Palace in Addis Ababa.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia took part on Sunday (20 September) in the colourful Teketsel Tsigie Festival at the Grand Palace in Addis Ababa. The origins of this historic religious ceremony date back more than a thousand years.
The event was first recorded as a festival of flowers in the ancient Kingdom of Axum in the 6th century. The whole country celebrated the opening of the flowering season with festivities marked by religious dances.
The festival then declined until it was received in the 14th century by King David, Emperor of this ancient Christian Kingdom. At this time Christians in the Middle East, including the Holy Land, were being persecuted by their Turkish rulers. They appealed to the Ethiopian monarch who organised a huge army and marched north. He threatened to divert the River Nile at Khartoum and so deprive Egypt of water.
The Turkish Khedive was impressed by this threat and came to terms with the Ethiopians. The Emperor David signed a treaty with the Turks under which they undertook to ensure religious tolerance and stop persecution of Christians.
The Muslim rulers of Jerusalem also gave the Emperor a fragment of the True Cross - the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Emperor returned with it to his capital of Shoa - near to present-day Addis Ababa -- and was given a hero's welcome. The jubilant people danced and feasted - and showered flowers on their leader. His return had coincided with the date of the old floral festival.
From that time the Teketsel Tsigie ceremony has been scrupulously observed down the ages. Since his coronation nearly 40 years ago Emperor Haile Selassie has taken part in it whenever possible. And this week, as usual, religious leaders went to his palace to dance before him and present him with a Cross of the multi-coloured flowers of his mountain kingdom.