The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር?; yä’Ityoṗṗya zämän aḳoṭaṭär) is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical yearfor Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo Churches, Eastern Catholic Churches and Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It is a solar calendar which in turn derives from the Egyptian Calendar, but like the Julian Calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on August 29th or August 30th in the Julian Calendar. A gap of 7–8 years between the Ethiopian and Gregorian Calendars results from an alternate calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation.
Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopic calendar has 12 months of 30 days plus 5 or 6 epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge’ez. The 6th epagomenal day is added every 4 years, without exception, on August 29 of the Julian calendar, 6 months before the corresponding Julian leap day. Thus the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Mäskäräm, for years between 1900 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually September 11 (Gregorian). It, however, falls on September 12 in years before the Gregorian leap year.
There is thus no denying the fact that September 11 definitely marks the start of Ethiopian spring – which is certainly not the case with January 1. However, in the measurement of time, distance, mass and temperature what is more important is the element of universality. When one considers the fact that we are living today in a global village it is imperative that we speak a universal language of time.
What we now call the Ethiopian calendar – that is the 365.25-day-long year–was devised by an Alexandrian astronomer known as Sosigenes at the behest of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. It was done so in a genuine effort to correct the Roman calendar that had gone berserk by then. However, it was realized in 730 A.D. by the Venerable Bede, an Anglo-Saxon monk, that the Julian year was 11 min. 14 sec. too long.
By the year 1582 there was a cumulative error of 10 days in the Julian calendar. What Pope Gregory XIII had done was, therefore, to decree that the day following October 4, 1582 should be called October 15. That is precisely how ten days were dropped out of the Julian year – the cumulative error made until then in the computation of time since the calendar was adopted by the Romans in
46 B. C.
Because we had never corrected our own Julian calendar, there is to date an error of 13 days incorporated in it since 46 B.C. Because the Gregorian calendar starts from 5493 Anno Mundi – and the Ethiopian calendar from 5501 – there is a further confusion in years. However, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Egypt in 1875, China in 1912, Russia in 1918 and Greece in 1923.
The choice before Ethiopia is now the decisive adoption of the Gregorian calendar in the interest of internationalism. We must prove the British historian Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrong that “Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Aethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten” by doing so.
New Year’s Day
Enkutatash is the word for the Ethiopian New Year in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, while it is called Ri’se Awde Amet (“Head Anniversary”) in Ge’ez, the term preferred by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. It occurs on September 11th in the Gregorian Calendar; except for the year following a leap year, when it occurs on September 12th.
Leap year cycle
The 4 year leap-year cycle is associated with the four Evangelists: the first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named the John-year, followed by the Matthew-year, and then the Mark-year. The year with the 6th epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke-year.
There are no exceptions to the 4 year leap-year cycle, like the Julian calendar but unlike the Gregorian calendar.
THE LITURGICAL YEAR ; The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhedo Church
The calendar of the Ethiopian church came from Egypt and as to methods and dates agrees with the calendar of the Coptic Church. But the two calendars differ with regard to the saints’ days and the time of observing them. The year of the Ethiopian calendar contains 365 days to which is added every fourth year an extra day. Each year in this four-year period is dedicated to one of the four Evangelists who come in the following order: Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. The year of Luke is the Ethiopian Leap year and is the year which precedes the western leap year.
Each year is divided into 12 months of 30 days. The extra 5 days are placed at the end of the year and known as Pagumen. In the leap year the extra day is added to these five days making the Pagumen of this year a period of 6 days.
Names of months are as follows:
(1) Meskerem (September-October)
(2) Teqemt (October- November)
(3) Hedar (November- December)
(4) Tahsas (December- January)
(5) Ter (January- February)
(6) Yekatit (February- March)
(7) Megabit (March- April)
(8) Miyazia (April – May)
(9) Ginbot (May – June)
(10) Sene (June – July)
(11) Hamle (July-August)
(12) Nehase (August- September)
As in Julian and Gregorian calendars days are grouped into weeks and are named in order.
DAYS OF THE WEEK
Sunday Ehud, Senbete Krestian
Monday – Sagno
Tuesday – Maksagno
Wednesday – Rabue
Thursday – Hamus
Friday Sadus – Arb
Saturday – Qadamit Sanbat
The chronology of the Ethiopian church follows the Era of Incarnation that is it dates from our Lord’s birth; there is a difference of 7 or 8 years between the western and Ethiopian systems. Because the Ethiopian church holds that our Lord was born 5500 years after the creation of the world this gives the 7 or 8 years difference between the Gregorian and Ethiopian Chronologies.
The church also uses other systems of chronology. There is the Era of the world which dates from 5493 B.C, which also differs from the western chronology by 7 or 8 years. Then there is a system of chronology called “the years of Mercy or Grace,” a system which follows the great lunar cycle.
The MOVABLE FEASTS are these of Easter and the days which depends upon it. The reckoning of Easter is based upon the system of Ammonius. The dates of Easter and the feast which depends upon it are determined by the Fast of Nineveh which precedes the Easter Lent and in turn the date of the fast of Nineveh has been found according to the given principles, the date of Easter and the dates of the movable feast can easily be calculated.
The Easter Lent always begins on a Monday and can not come before the 1st of Yekatit nor after the 5th of Megabit. The festival of the Mount of Olives always begins upon Sunday and cannot come before the 28th of Yekatit nor after the 2nd of Miyazia.
Palm Sunday cannot come before the 19th of Megabit 01 after the 23rd of Miyazia. Easter is on a Sunday and cannot come before the 26th of Megabit nor after 30th of Miyazia. The congress of priests always begins on Wednesday and cannot come before the 20th of Miyazia nor after the 24th of Ginbot. Ascension always begins on Thursday and cannot come before the 5th of Ginbot nor after the 9th of Sene. The Feast of Pentecost always begins on Sunday and cannot come before the 15th of Ginbot nor after the 19th of Sene.
Saints’ days and other festivals have not been imposed by any law of God, they were established by the church herself. Some go back to apostolic times and others are later origin. There is a prodigious number of feasts in the Ethiopian Church. The principal feasts of the church are nine feasts of the Lord, thirty three feasts of our Lady, the feasts of the Apostles, Sunday, Saturday, the feasts of the Angels, the feasts of the righteous (saints) and the feasts of the martyrs.
The feasts of our Lord are divided into 9 major and 9 minor feasts. Major feasts are:
1. His conception
5. Palm Sunday or hosanna
6. Good Friday
The death of our Lady is commemorated on January 21, Ethiopic Calendar, 16 Jan. in Western reckoning and apparently by reason of this the 21st of each Ethiopian month is dedicated to the Virgin. Nativity is on May 1 (April 26 in Western reckoning and September 10 (7 in West. Reckoning); her burial on August 15 (8 in West. Reckoning); Assumption on August 16 (9 west reckoning); her Presentation on December 3 (Nov.29 in West reckoning); her Conception on December 16 (12 December in West. reckoning).
We thus have the following as our Lady’s major feasts:
– Conceived of the Lord
– Flight into Egypt
– Death of our Lady
The feast of Kidane Mehret (Covenant of Mercy) is a day which honours the merciful power of St. Mary the blessed Mother. It is kept on Yekatit 16 in Ethiopian Calendar (Feb.24 Gregorian calendar).
The feasts which come each month during the are: Trinity, the 7th of each month; Michael the Archangel, the 12t of each month; the Covenant of Mercy, the 16th of each month; the Holy Virgin Assumption, the 21st of each month; the Death of Our Lord, the 27th of each month; and the birth of Christ, the 29th of each month.
Every Christian has a patron saint and each family has its patron saint whose anniversary is commemorated from father to son. The patron most in vogue are: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Gabriel, St. George, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, Tekla Haimanot, Gebre Menfese Kidus, St. Petros etc.
The book Senksar is the calendar which contains a list of saints to be commemorated daily and their brief history. There are many holy martyrs and confessors who are remembered. The angels hold a high place in the church. They protect homes, Churches, palaces and all places of importance. Chiefs among them are St. Michael and St. Gabriel.
Some feasts are national and religious at the same time. These are:
– Christmas – Tahsas 29th E.C (7th January)
– Epiphany – Ter 11th E.C (19th January)
– St. Michael– Ter 12th E.C (20th January)
– Good Friday
– Feast of Assumption—Nehassie 16th E.C (22nd August)
– Finding of the truth Cross- Maskaram 17th E.C (27th September)