Ethiopia rings in its New Year, Enkutatash, on 11 September, and not on 1 January, as the rest of the world does. The country’s unique calendar considers September, called Meskerem in the local language of Ethiopia, to be the first month of the year. Here is a look at the history behind the New Year celebrations.
The Ethiopian New Year Enkutatash means the ‘gift of jewels’. Legend has it that King Solomon of Jerusalem gave the Queen of Sheba jewels during her famous visit to Jerusalem some 3,000 years ago. Her return to Ethiopia after receiving the gift coincided with the New Year celebration in September, and hence the name Enkutatash came to be.
The number of daylight hours and nighttime hours happen to be exactly equal in every part of the globe once every September, which is one of the reasons Ethiopians celebrate New Year during this month. During this time of the year, the Sun and the Moon that are used to count time each have 12 hours before setting. The second reason is derived from the Bible, which says that the creation of the Heavens and the Earth took place in September.
Ethiopians believe that the month of September has different signs that explain why it should be celebrated as the beginning of a New Year. Blooming flowers, sunny days and a generally pleasant weather reign during this month. It is a time when people leave the rainy, foggy and thunderous months in Ethiopia’s winter period behind and move on to better days.