Goodbye 2020, Hello 2013!

Illustration by: Yohannes Balcha

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2013!

“2020 has been such a mess. I wish the year was over already.”

What if we told you this was possible – that you don’t have to wait until December to ring in the New Year?

In Ethiopia, people celebrate New Years Day on 11th September. Known in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia as Enkutatash, this holiday marks 1 Meskerem, the first day in the Ethiopian calendar.

Goodbye, 2020 – hello, 2013!

The How, What, Why to Ethiopian New Year 

How is it calculated? 

The most common calendar is the Gregorian calendar –  named after Pope Gregory XIII who introduced it in October 1582. However, Ethiopia follows a solar calendar, based in Coptic tradition and fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 BC by Rome’s Emperor Augustus. 

The Ethiopian year consists of 12 months, each with 30 days, and a bonus 13th month of five or six timekeeping days. If you add up all the “timekeeping adjustments” made so far, the Ethiopian calendar is seven years and eight months “behind” the Gregorian calendar. As a result, Ethiopians are both in 2020, according to the Gregorian calendar, and 2013, according to their own. Ethiopian passports even contain two birth dates to make sure there’s no confusion!

What is its history? 

Ethiopian New year is steeped in a rich cultural and religious history, taking its origins from one or more of the following:

  • Enkutatash means the ‘gift of jewels’. In 980 BC, Queen of Sheba returned from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem. On the Queen’s arrival back in Ethiopia, her chiefs welcomed her by filling her treasury with jewels (‘enku’). 
  • It may also refer to the countryside. The New Year coincides with the end of the rainy season, so the landscape is peppered with Adey Abeba, whose bright yellow flowers appear almost in celebration of the impending harvest. Blooming flowers, pleasant weather and the signs of new life are only fitting for a New Year celebration.
  • The September Equinox – this is when the number of daylight hours and nighttime hours are exactly equal in every part of the globe, and could account for the Ethipoian New Year being celebrated around this time.

Why is this such a big holiday? 

Enkututash is a holiday for the whole family to come together. Boundaries between neighbours are nonexistent, and friends are more like brothers. 

Life becomes a musical as young girls line the streets singing familiar songs, whilst young boys display their creativity by distributing artwork throughout the neighbourhood. 

The smell of freshly ground coffee, frankincense and slow-cooked meats fill the air, a perfect accompaniment to the sounds of laughter and traditional music. 

Ultimately, love is what this holiday is all about.  

Writing for culture Serkalem Tafessee shared the following: 

“Everyone can dine together, and it’s common to see people feeding each other as a way of showing affection and love”

So why wait until January 1st to start afresh and adopt a new outlook on life? Let’s all join in and hope 2013 brings us better things than 2020! 

For more tips on how to enjoy Ethiopian New Year click here.

Enkuan Aderesachihu! (Happy New Year)