BY SOLOMON DIBABA
The thirteenth month of sunshine in Ethiopia, five or six extra days at the end of the year, is a week of preparations for Ethiopians who celebrate the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash). Ethiopians celebrate New Year according to the Julian calendar which falls on the 11th of September or on the 12th during a leap year.
The Ethiopian New Year is characterized by the end of the long rainy season, a bright sky and a dazzling sunlight. The countryside turns into yellow daisies (adey abeba), which covers the entire fields in rural areas of Ethiopia at this time of the year.
The festival is celebrated with the singing of special songs dedicated for this holiday by girls dressed in traditional clothes and giving the bouquets of flowers (adey abeba), they collected from the fields to each household. In return, the girls often receive a small gift, usually money. On the eve of the New Year, boys gather in groups singing songs that herald about the New Year locally called Hoya Hoye. They sing, moving from house to house and receive gifts usually in the form of money.
The celebration of the Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash, meaning the “Gift of Jewels” is believed to be celebrated since the time of the Queen of Sheba. During her visit to King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem, the Queen gave gifts to the King with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels, as mentioned in the Bible.
When the Queen returned to Ethiopia her chiefs welcomed her with precious jewels to replenish her treasury. Enkutatash has been celebrated since then.
Lighting bonfire on the eve of the New Year is also part of the celebration. Male members of the family light a bonfire made of branches and leaves of trees (Chibo) to say good bye to the concluding year and welcome the New Year hoping it will be a bright year and bring peace and prosperity for the family and the country as a whole.
The Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of 30 days plus, a thirteenth month (Pagume) of five days or six days every leap year. Pagume, is the 13th month in the Ethiopian calendar, comes from the Greek word epagomene, which means ‘days forgotten when a year is calculated’.
As the Ethiopian counting of years begins in year eight of the Common Era, a calendar era often used as an alternative naming of the AD, there is seven to eight years gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendar. This mainly results from an alternate calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation to Virgin Mary.
The Common Era (AD) follows the calculations of Dionysius, a 6th-century monk, while the non-Chalcedonian countries continued to use the calculations of Annius, a 5th-century monk, which had placed the Annunciation of Christ exactly eight years later. Because of this, on 11th of September 2016, it will be 2009 in the Ethiopian calendar.
Enkutatash is a very festive occasion and a get together for families. The rainy season is the busiest time for families in rural areas, as it is the main season in the highland areas for cultivation of crops. The end of rain means time to get some rest and celebrate.
The beginning of the New Year accompanied by a bright sky, a dazzling sunshine and a countryside turned into gold with the daisies (adey abeba), unique to this time, is also among the prime time for tourist arrival. It is time for an increasing number of tourist flows to Ethiopia, with nine inscribed world heritages and five on the tentative list.
The Ethiopian New Year is celebrated by all Ethiopians here in Ethiopia and by Ethiopian’s in the Diaspora. Followers of all religions in the country, including Christians and Muslims celebrate the Ethiopian New Year with a lot of festivities.
The Ethiopian New Year is a source of inspiration for all Ethiopians. Farmers in the rural areas tend their farms expecting a bumper harvest in the next season. School children are getting ready for the new academic year while university students throughout the country are preparing themselves for yet another year in college. Enqutatash offers hopes and inspirations for all Ethiopians.