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New Year’s Traditions in Ethiopia: Enkutatash

3 min read

In many countries around the world, New Year’s Day is celebrated on January 1st with fireworks and festivities with family / friends the evening before.
But this is not the only type of New Year’s celebration and not everyone celebrates on January 1st.
In some articles, we’ll look at New Year’s traditions from around the world to understand the way different cultures celebrate the year to come.

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Ethiopian New Year is called Enkutatash and is celebrated on September 11 or 12, depending on the leap year.
Interestingly, Ethiopia uses its own ancient calendar called the Ge’ez calendar, thus this public holiday is celebrated on the 1st of Meskerem —the first day in the local calendar.
The date of Enkutatash marks the approximate end of three months of heavy rain, when daisies blossom all over the mountains and fields change into bright yellow.
The word “Enkutatash” is heavy with symbolism as it not only means the “gift of jewels”, but also represents the end of the rainy season, the time of year during which the Ethiopian landscape is covered with bright yellow flowers called Adey Abeba.
It is period when the old bless the young and the young hope for new prospects, also associated traditionally with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in about 980 BC. The Queen was welcomed back in her country with plenty of jewels, also known as “enku” in the official national language.

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.

Enkutatash is a holiday shared among people of all religions and almost all cultures throughout the country.
Large celebrations are held, that typically last an entire week and revolve around family gatherings.
On New Year’s Eve, people light wooden torches —known as “chibo” in the local language— to symbolize the coming of the new season of sunshine now that the rain season comes to its end.
But the actual New Year’s day begins with slaughtering animals, blessing bread, and Tella (a traditional brew).
Families typically purchase an animal on New year’s Eve and slaughter it the following morning.
A variety of typical dishes is then prepared and served for lunch.
As in several cultural celebrations around the world, food plays a big part in the celebration of Enkutatash, which include Doro Wot, a spicy chicken stew typically served with rice or flatbread known as injera, Dulet, a combination of minced beef, liver, and lamb tripe, sometimes served raw, or Ga’at, a stiff porridge shaped like a donut, also known as Genfo that is often made of either barley flour or cornmeal and served with a dipping sauce in the middle.
Drinks served include coffee, a staple on the Ethiopian table, and Araki, a strong homemade liquor that is typically made from grapes and aniseed.

And, if you may want to learn to say Happy New Year in Amharic: Enkuan Aderesachihu!

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Images from Web – Google Research