Ashenda: Celebrating Diversity During Black History Month

By Guest contributor

Every February, Canadians honour and celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of Black people.

Today, we are exploring the traditions and customs of East African grounds, specifically Tigray, the Amhara region, and parts of Eritrea, where women and girls celebrate a festivity called Ashenda. 

Ashenda is a unique celebration that is facilitated, organized, and attended by women and girls in the third week of August every year.

The word Ashenda means “tall green grass.” During the month of August, the grass is at its highest. The grass is collected and used in front of homes as welcome mats or made into skirts as a fashionable accessory.

Originating as a commemoration of the ascension of the Virgin Mary, this festival of womanhood has blossomed into a space of freedom and rejection of violence against women and girls.

Traditional gender norms present barriers to women living freely. During Ashenda, when women sing and gather, their songs reinforce gender equality, charitable giving, and the need to create an inclusive environment that serves and respects everyone. It provides a unique platform for women and girls to express themselves in a safe environment while collecting donations for those in need.

Women and girls divide themselves up into small groups, and go singing from house to house, playing their drums in exchange for donations in the form of money, food, drinks, or other useful items until sundown.

Men from all religious backgrounds and economic standings are approached for donations by the women. The items collected are gathered in one location at the end of the day, and the group of women and girls collectively decide who the receipts on the donations will be, based on need.

During the festivities, there are also many seminars and events held for locals to discuss the future of women in Tigray and Ethiopia, and how conditions can be changed and improved. 

The adornments that women wear during Ashenda today were found on skeletons that are close to 5,000 years old in Tigray.

Today, many believe and hope that this festivity could become one that will bring more unity and greater democratization across Ethiopia and Eritrea as the festivity pushes for political discourse and conversations that are often difficult to have.

Ashenda is also celebrated globally by the Ethiopian and Eritrean diaspora across Europe and North America to celebrate femininity and push for discussions of gender equality.

Check out what Ashenda looked like in Calgary 2023:

Celebration of ASHENDA Tigray 2023 Calgary, Alberta, Canada||ኣከባብራ በዓል ኣሸንዳ 2015 ዓም ካልጋሪ፤ አልበርታ፤ካናዳ (

To see more about the dance and traditional attire worn during Ashenda, visit:

Ethiopian Music 2023 #eritrea #tigray #ethiopia #ebstv #ashenda #music #shorts (

Read More Newcomer Stories

💙Be inspired by the real-life journeys of newcomers