The Feast of St. Gabriel is celebrated twice a year in Kulubi (December 28th and July 26th).
Kulubi is a small town about 50 km away from Haramaya University toward Addis Ababa. Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians gather to celebrate the arch-angel Gabriel. I should first say that every day of the month is a “saint day” or a “feast day” for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. These “saint days” are according to the Ethiopian calendar though, not the Gregorian calendar. St. Gabriel’s feast day is on the 19th of each month, so in December, it falls on the 28th and in July it falls on the 26th (of the Gregorian calendar). The town of Kulubi has a huge church built on the top of a hill. Apparently, there was a church there since 1880, but it was rebuilt in 1962 by Emperor Haile Selassie. Since the new church was built, people have been making a pilgrimage to Kulubi twice a year. People walk from as far as Addis (400 km) and from Harare, Drie– Dawa and surrounding while others take vehicular transportation. Originally, On the celebration day, It took a while to get to
the church because of the crowds and because you will be stopped to look at some of the vendors’ stalls along the way.
At one point, you will see an animal being sold and where some people had set up temporary shelters to sleep in made by plastic and tents too large tent will serve several church members. To get back to the main road, you had to go on a narrow, muddy path. The entrance of the church is colorful gates (national colors: red, green, and yellow).The thousands of people that walk to Kulubi mostly sleep outside around the churchyard. For the event, many vendors show up to sell souvenirs (t-shirts, cross necklaces, hats) and food (lots of fried bread and traditional dishes). There is also an are
a near the church set up as a marketplace for animals; cattle, sheep, and goats are sold to be sacrificed. Besides animals, people bring other gifts to set outside the church. In front of the church, there was a huge pile of colorful umbrellas. These velvety umbrellas are often seen during church services and processions; they are usually held over the head of the priest by a church deacon or other high ranking official.
The actual celebrations begin a few days before the celebration day many
people arrive a day or two before then. The praying and chanting goes through the entire night and finishes in the late morning on. It is exciting though to see all of the pilgrims making their way toward the church. Since the church is located on a hill, you could see the road all the way up flooded with white heads – the white being from Netela, a traditional white scarf worn by both men and women. While women must cover their heads before entering an Ethiopian Orthodox church, men are not required to do so (but many do anyway).
The crowd is very packed around the church so you will tightly and moved ever so slowly. Eventually, on this day thousands of babies will be baptized at Kulubi,
When you made it to the front of the church, you will be able to hear some of the praying and chanting and see a few of the priests. There will be some people sitting down and others laying on the ground near the church; they probably arrived a day or two early to reserve themselves a spot so close to all of the action. While you are walking around the church you will smell the incense and different colors.