Feast of Saint Gabriel in Ethiopia (Kulubi Gabriel) Date in the current year: December 28, 2024

Feast of Saint Gabriel in Ethiopia (Kulubi Gabriel) The archangel Gabriel is one of the most revered saints in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. On December 28 each year, thousands of pilgrims head to the small town of Kulubi to attend a church dedicated to Saint Gabriel and participate in a festive procession in honor of the feast of Saint Gabriel, referred to as Kulubi Gabriel.

Gabriel is an archangel in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) whose name means “God is my strength”. According to the Christian tradition, Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel to explain his visions and foretold the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. There are churches dedicated to the archangel Gabriel in different parts of the world, from London, UK to Kulubi, Ethiopia.

Kulubi is a small town in eastern Ethiopia with a population of about 4,500. It is located 70 km south of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city. It is known for its large St. Gabriel’s Church, which is the site of massive pilgrimages that take place twice a year, on July 28 and December 29. Tens of thousands of Orthodox pilgrims come to Kulubi to venerate Saint Gabriel.

The original St. Gabriel’s Church in Kulubi was erected by Ras Makonnen, the governor of Harar province, to commemorate the Battle of Adwa, which secured the sovereignty of the Ethiopian Empire. The present church was erected at the same site by Makonnen’s son, Emperor Haile Selassie, in 1962.

The feast of Saint Gabriel in Ethiopia is celebrated on 19 Koiak (Tahsas) in the Ethiopian calendar, corresponding to December 28 (or December 29 in Ethiopian leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. Most pilgrims arrive in Dire Dawa on the eve of the holiday and then head out to Kulubi. Every year, about 100 thousand people participate in a festive procession that ends at the church.

Some pilgrims visit St. Gabriel’s Church in Kulubi to pray to Saint Gabriel and ask him for something, others to perform a vow, to thank the archangel for the heard prayers and fulfilled requests or to bring offerings to the church. In Ethiopia, it is customary to give candles and brightly colored umbrellas as offerings. After the feast, the collected items are once again sold to believers, and the proceeds are used to help the poor.

Children that were born after their parents had prayed to the archangel Gabriel are brought to the church for baptism. During the feast, about a thousand babies are baptized, many of whom are named in honor of Saint Gabriel.

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