Today is the New Year in Ethiopia. 2013 begins. There must be a mistake, we are September 11, 2010. It is no mistake, on the calendar, as in many other things, Ethiopia is different.

Ethiopia uses the Coptic Orthodox Church calendar, also called the Ge’ez calendar, similar to the Julian calendar, which has 12 months of 30 days and 1 month over 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’s holiday “Enkutatash” in Amharic (official language of Ethiopia) or “Ri’se Awde Amet” in Ge’ez (ancient language still used in the Ethiopian Coptic church, in which all the holy books are written), is celebrated on the first day of the month of Meskerem, which coincides with September 11 of the Gregorian calendar. The holiday happens to September 12 in leap years.

Meskerem is considered a month of transition from the old to the new year, in which hopes, dreams, wishes and wishes for the future are expressed. As it coincides with the end of the rainy season, the field is covered with yellow daisies and the beginning of the harvest encourages celebration. These dates are traditionally believed to coincide with the end of the universal flood.

The New Year is celebrated with prayers, bonfires, flowers, songs, dances, gifts and traditional food … Men light bonfires to drive away bad luck and attract fortune in the year that begins. The girls dress in traditional costume and give yellow daisies. Early in the morning, families go to church and then gather around a traditional meal of injera (flat bread, made from fermented teff flour) and wat (stew).

Enkutatash means “gift of jewels”. According to tradition, the celebration dates back to the times of the Queen of Sheba. When she returned to Ethiopia from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, she was greeted with great joy and gifted with abundant jewels that filled the royal coffers.


Melkam Addis Amet