Enkutatash: Ethiopian New Year, Ushering in 2007

Many Ethiopians as a significant achievement and “a reminder that they have their own calendar comprising of 13 months” echo sentiments of the Ethiopian national pride of owning its New Year.

It’s 2014 in the West, harvest and autumn themes take center stage in various September holidays and celebrations, but in Ethiopia, the opposite is true. Ethiopia will be celebrating its New Year, ushering in 2007 on Meskerem 1, month 1 on the Ethiopian calendar [calendar said to be influenced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church]. It occurs on September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for leap years, when it occurs on September 12. The Ethiopic calendar is a unique form based on theCoptic calendar, which is said is derivative from the earlier Egyptian calendar. Seven years and eight months behind the Gregorian calendar, according to Ahmed Zakaria, professor of history at Addis Ababa University, “the reason is that the Roman Church amended their calculation in 500 AD – adjusting it by seven or eight years”.

On Meskerem 1, marked by the end of the heavy rain period, the sun signals the arrival of a new flowering season. In time for festivities, daisy flowers burst to bloom beautifying the field with spring’s bright yellow-flowered “Bidens species”, known to Ethiopia as “Adey Abeba” [meaning in Ethiopia’s official language, Amharic, “Young Flower”]. The color yellow is symbolic of “peace, hope, and love”, notably to Ethiopia, and also other cultures around the world.

The day of observance is called Enkutatash, an Amharic word meaning “gift of jewels” suggestive of the first day of the New Year. History has it that, at its essence, it’s a celebration of “when the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her back by replenishing her treasury with Enku or jewels”.


A memorable time of gaiety, on New Year’s Eve, young children throughout the country participate in the cultural festivity as they gather bouquets of daisies to give to friends, whilst girls and boys go from door-to-door as they dance and sing poetic praise songs paying homage to the new season. After dark, on the Eve, people light bonfires outside their houses as they usher in 2007 with the element of fire, and in chorus, fireworks light up the city’s sky.


Moreover, the celebration is both religious and secular, as the day of the New Year typically commences with church gatherings, followed with an all day reveling with New Year’s greetings, gift exchanges, and sharing traditional meals with family and friends.

Significantly, the officiation “is held around the country, notably at the Ragual Church on Entoto Mountain. While some of the other main religious celebration takes place within the Gondar Region and includes three days of prayers, psalms, and hymns, sermons, and large colorful processions mark the celebration of the New Year.”

Melkam Addis Amet :: Happy New Year!

Amira Ali, Staff Writer

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