ENKUTATASH. ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR
In Ethiopia the new year begins September 11 and not on January 1 .Ethiopia uses the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church, also called Ge’ez calendar, similar to the Julian calendar (predecessor of the Gregorian calendar, adopted by most countries in the world after the Reformation of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582) that has 12 months of 30 days and 1 month of 5 days (6 days in leap year). Therefore the Ethiopian calendar consists of 13 months and is 7 years and 8 months less than in the Gregorian calendar. This explains some of the country’s tourist slogans: “Ethiopia, 13 months of sunshine” or “in Ethiopia You are eight years younger.”
The New Year holiday “Enkutatash” in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia) or “Ri’se Awde Amet” in Ge’ez (ancient language that is still used in Ethiopian Orthodox church, in which are written all the sacred books ), it is celebrated on the first day of the month of Meskerem, which coincides with the September 11 Gregorian calendar. The celebration moves to September 12 in leap years.
Meskerem is considered a month of transition from the old to the new year, in which the hopes, dreams, wishes and desires are expressed for the future. The celebration is coinciding with the end of the rainy season, the field is covered with yellow daisies and the beginning of the harvest encourages. Traditionally it is believed that these dates coincide with the end of the flood.
The new year is celebrated with prayers, bonfires, flowers, songs, dances, gifts and traditional food … Men lighting bonfires to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune for the coming year. The girls are dressing in traditional costume and give away yellow daisies. Early in the morning families go to church, and then gather at home around a traditional meal with injera (flat bread made with fermented teff flour) and wat (stew). In the cities the celebration is more modern; people exchange gifts and greeting cards in addition to party.
Enkutatash means “gift of jewels”. According to tradition, the celebration goes back to the times of the Queen of Sheba. When she returned to Ethiopia from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, she was received with great joy and gave her abundant jewels that filled the royal coffers.