According to the Western or Gregorian calendar, the Ethiopian New year or Enkutatash is celebrated on September 11th.
The country still follows the orthodox Julian Calendar which consists of an equal division of the twelve months into 30 days each and the creation of a 13th month known as Pagume, which contains within is 5 or 6 days which is generally dependent on whether the year is a leap year or not.
By a calculation the Ethiopian calendar is currently seven years and eight months behind the global Gregorian calendar that is followed.
2017 New Year in Ethopia:
Enkutatash is an important festival for the Ethiopians as it also symbolizes the advent of good harvest weather. After months of torrential pour, the month of September sees clear skies and fresh, clear, beautiful atmosphere. The highlands all teeming with flowers and the land looks like it is made of clear gold as the Meskal daisies bear flowers in the season.
The Origins of the “Enkutatash”:
Tracing the origins of the Enkutatash tradition, as historians site it, is biblical as the Queen of Sheba Makeda came back from her visit to the fabled King Solomon, the elders (the chides) of the tribes as a welcome gesture offered her Jewels known as “enku”. Hence ‘”Enkutatash” translates to the “Gift of Jewels” and has been celebrated henceforth in the season of spring. Meskerem hence is the month which sees the transition period of the transformation from the old to the new and hence is the month that nestles within it the hopes for a brighter and better future.
Orthodox ‘Enkutatash’ Celebrations:
The largest celebration of Enkutatash is held in Kostete Yohannes church which is a 14th century church located in the city of Gaynt in the Gondar Region. For almost a period of three days the sounds of the Psalms, prayers, hymns and sermons resound through the city as parades and processions are readied for the celebration of New Year. Celebrations at a massive scale are also made in regions nearer to Addis Ababa, the capital of the nation at the Ragual Church on Entoto Mountain.
On New Year’s Eve, torches are made out of dry leaves and wood, and lit alight in front of the houses. This lighting of the torches is then accompanied by the singing of songs by the young and the old. At wee hours of the morning, people dress themselves in traditional Ethiopian clothing as they pay a visit to the church which is followed by a family Mel comprising of Injera which is basically a form of flat Bread and Wat , which can be identified with a stew.
The girls in Ethiopia on this occasion go singing New Year Songs from door to door and receive money for it, much like the tradition of Christmas choirs and carol singing children, the boys of Ethiopia on the other hand sell pictures that have been drawn by them. With the advent of the evening people go and visit their family and friends as they drink Tella which is the locally brewed traditional Ethiopian beer. Also as the elder sit together and discuss about things that concern them like, the hopes for a New Year, the children roam around freely and try to spend the money that they managed to earn on the occasion.
Embracing the modern spirit the city dwellers in more recent times have adopted the more western way of sending out greeting cards etc. instead of the traditional bunches of flowers that have been a part of the Ethiopian customs for ages.