ASHENDA (also called, Shadey, Ashendye, Solel, Mariya) is a festival of girls and young women that is celebrated in northern Ethiopia, in the Amhara and Tigray regions. It is usually held every year between August 16 and 26.

Ashenda is the name of a tall grass that they collect on the banks of the rivers and that they use to make a skirt with which they adorn their traditional dresses called tifi. Tifi are cotton dresses adorned with rich embroidery on the front, sleeves and skirt. They are usually of a different color depending on the area. Girls do their hair with braids and elaborate hairstyles that vary by age and sport their best jewelry.

Ashenda’s outfit is taken very seriously, the women prepare the costumes for weeks, and the family and neighbors make sure that all girls and young women have the right clothes and that no one feels left out.

After meeting in town or downtown, the girls break into small groups and go from house to house singing and playing the drum. It is common for them to receive money, food, drinks and other gifts in appreciation.

As in so many Ethiopian traditions, there is a legend about this celebration: a man was called to go to war, when he left his house he asked God for a wish: victory over his enemies and as payment he offered to God the sacrifice of the first one who he leaves his house. The man had raised a lamb who was always the first to greet him when he got home. When he returned from the war the lamb was not the first to receive him, the first to leave his house was his daughter. The girl accepted the sacrifice, but asked her father to let her play for a few weeks before she was sacrificed. Since then Ashenda has been held.