Enkutatash (Ethiopic እንቁጣጣሽ) is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia. It occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is 11 September (or, during a leap year, 12 September) according to the Gregorian calendar.
Enkutatash is the name for the Ethiopian New Year, and means “gift of jewels” in the Amharic language. The story goes back almost 3,000 years to the Queen of Sheba of ancient Ethiopia and Yemen who was returning from a trip to visit King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Bible in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. She had gifted Solomon with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia her chiefs welcomed her with enku or jewels to replenish her treasury.
The Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which was fixed to the Julian calendar in 25 BC by Emperor Augustus of Rome with a start date of 29 August J.C., thus establishing the New Year on this day. The date marks the approximate end of the “rainy season”. It has also been associated traditionally with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in ca. 980 BC.
The Ethiopian calendar is a unique form of the Coptic calendar, derived from the earlier Egyptian calendar. On September 12, 2007 Ethiopia celebrated its bi-millennial, or 2,000 years from the Annunciation of Christ. Why is their calendar 7-8 years different from the West’s Gregorian calendar? In the West, the calendar was calculated around A.D. 525 by Dionysius Exeguus a Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer who based his calculations for the birth of Christ on an erroneous date for the death of Herod the Great. In the East, an Alexandrian monk named Panodorus did his calculations differently back around A.D. 400 for the Egyptian calendar.
Large celebrations are held around the country, notably at the Ragual Church on Entoto mountain. The celebration is both religious and secular with the day beginning with church services followed by the family meal. Young children will receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing and boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends and adults drink Ethiopian beer.
According to InCultureParent, “after attending church in the morning, families gather to share a traditional meal of injera (flat bread) and wat (stew). Later in the day, young girls donning new clothes, gather daisies and present friends with a bouquet, singing New Year’s songs.” According to the Ethiopian Tourism Commission, “Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Modern Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated – in lieu of the traditional bouquet of flowers.”
The Ethiopian counting of years begins in the year 8 of the common era. This is because the common era 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 8 years later. For this reason, on Enkutatash in the year 2013 of the Gregorian calendar, it became 2006 in the Ethiopian calendar.
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.
MELKAM ADDIS AMET! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO THOSE NEAR AND FAR. MAY OUR CREATOR ADD A RICH BLESSING TO YOUR LIFE AND GIVE US THE STRENGTH AND CLARITY WE NEED TO FULFILL OUR DIVINE WORKS!