Ethiopian New Year

Ethiopians follow a 13-month calendar similar to that used in many Eastern Orthodox churches, trailing the western calendar by seven years and eight months. On the Gregorian calendar, Ethiopian New year falls on the 11th September.  

According to the bible, God created the earth in the month of September, and legend has it that King Solomon gave the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba jewels during a state visit over 3,000 years ago.

Upon her return, at the end of the dry summer season, yellow flowers began to bloom in the foothills surrounding Addis Ababa, signifying the end of a long drought and the start of new life within the country.

In honour of their former empress, the festival was named Enkutatash, meaning the ‘gift of the jewels’, a name it still bears to this day.

In September, the number of daylight and nighttime hours are the same, and this another reason why September is considered spiritually significant in the eyes of early Ethiopian Christians. 

Ethiopian New Year

Despite its religious connotations and history, Enkutatash is not an exclusively religious holiday.

Celebrated by believers and non-believers alike, this time of year is seen as a period for community and family, a time when we forget the grievances and embrace a collective shared experience.

Gifts are often exchanged, with more traditional families welcoming guests with bouquets of the yellow flowers found on the foothills surrounding Addis Ababa, the same flowers that greeted the Queen of Sheba all those years ago.

Ethiopian New Year

The day commences with traditional songs, usually performed by groups of Ethiopian girls. 

A traditional meal of chicken stew and injera is washed down with lashings of traditional honey based wine and fresh Ethiopian coffee.

As nighttime approaches, families gather and begin building a bonfire, which is lit once night descents. From here celebrations are held all night long and end at sunrise. 

Ethiopian New Year

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