Celebrating Eritrea’s 24th Independence Anniversary was another colorful moment of pride and dignity to recall the valiant struggle of the Eritrean people, pay tribute to Eritrea’s Martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Eritrea’s freedom and sovereignty, and to celebrate the people’s extraordinary resilience. This year’s celebrations were held under the theme “Development through Resilience”
The three day celebrations commenced on Friday 22 May 2015 in front of the Eritrean Embassy in Washington, DC with the hoisting of the Eritrean flag by the Hidri-youth group, reciting of the national anthem and a moment of silence in memory of Eritrea’s fallen heroes. After a cake cutting ceremony and a brief statement on the occasion by Mr. Berhane Gebrehiwot, Charge D’Affaires at the Embassy of Eritrea, it was music and dance on the streets and sidewalks, as Eritrean youth served traditional coffee and snacks to all, passersby’s as well as participants.
Later in the afternoon, the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) hosted the official opening ceremony at the Eritrean Civic and Cultural Center (ECCC). After the ceremonial formalities, cake and champagne as well as traditional coffee were served. While the celebrations continued all night at the ECCC, parallel celebrations for the youth was held at Selam Restaurant, and NUEW members spent their evening at the Ambassador Restaurant, as a show of support for patriotic entrepreneurs in the Eritrean community.
On Saturday 23 May 2015, the Family Picnic was held at Fort Hunt Park and the beautiful blue skies and sunny weather made for a picturesque day. Fort Hunt Park is located near the shores of the Potomac River in Virginia. Mixed hardwood forests and open fields provide a variety of habitats for birds and other wildlife and the Eritrean flag adorned trees and tents around the park where families gathered for a day of fun, food and music.
At the National Union of Eritrean Women’s tent, food and beverage was served. A traditional porridge, Gaat, and many other dishes prepared by the various Mekete teams was served. Invited guests and friends of Eritrea joined in the celebrations. This year, the NUEW-Baltimore Chapter members presided over the coffee ceremony.
There was plenty of food and beverage. The Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (Y-PFDJ) served hot dogs and hamburgers at the annual barbeque-the cotton candy remained the favorite snack.
Various youth soccer teams competed in the open fields, while the little children ran around and played on swings. The face painting line remained long throughout the day as the children picked their favorite designs and colors.
At the end of the day, trophies were handed out to the children and the winning soccer team.
On 24 May 2015, Eritrea’s Independence Day, the NUEW hosted a “Taste of Eritrea” dinner at the Eritrean Cultural and Civic Center (ECCC) where guests were treated to Eritrean cuisine, traditional brews and coffee. The evening culminated with a Cultural Gala at the Renaissance Hotel in the heart of Washington, DC. Eritreans of all ages came out, decked in the national colors of Eritrea-representing Eritrea’s diverse nationalities, for what promised to be a grand finale to the three day long celebrations.
The evening program began with a moment of silence in memory of Eritrea’s fallen heroes. It was followed by HIDRI-the Eritrean Youth Cultural Troupe from the Washington, DC metro area, who led the singing of the Eritrean national anthem.
Mr. Said Abdella, Chairman of the Eritrean National Holidays Committee (ENHOC) delivered the opening remarks. In his speech, the Chair of ENHOC welcomed the participants and thanked the many community groups and individuals that helped in organizing the event.
Minister Woldai Futur and Ambassador Mohammed Suleiman, Eritrea’s Ambassador to Uganda, Mr. Berhane Gebrehiwot, Charge D’Affaires at the Embassy of Eritrea and Mr. Dawit Haile, Head of Organizational Affairs were present at the celebrations. Mr. Berhane Ghebrehiwot delivered the official Statement on the occasion of Eritrea’s 24th Independence Anniversary. In his Statement, he re-iterated Eritrea’s commitment to peace, stability and security in the region and congratulated and thanked the Eritrean Community organizations for the three day celebrations.
After the welcoming speeches, it was time for the traditional cake cutting ceremony in which elders in the community and leaders of the Peoples Front for Justice and Democracy (PFDJ, PFDJ2 and Y-PFDJ) and the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) joined the dignitaries to cut the cake. In addition, there was popcorn and Hambasha, the traditional bread and champagne to toast the celebrations.
As cake was being served the audience was treated to the opening ceremony which was presented by HIDRI. The young men and women, dressed in traditional attire, performed dances depicting Eritrea’s ethnic groups. This was followed by the opening dance in which members of the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), Adetat Mekete, and others who joined in carrying flags and waving leafed branches. Dressed in traditional attire, they swayed to the music, clapped and ululated in celebration.
The highlight of the evening was the spectacular entertainment delivered by Helen Meles, Kedija Adem and Habtu Teclemariam and the band which had everyone rocking until the wee hours of the morning. The variety in the music made for a wonderfully entertaining night and the huge crowd that turned out to celebrate Eritrea’s birthday was not disappointed. The dance floor would remain filled to capacity throughout the evening’s program as the three musicians sang new patriotic songs as well as emotive songs from Eritrea’s liberation struggle. It was another memorable night where culture and community came alive, a perfect finale to the three day celebrations.
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