Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—Ethiopians throughout the country celebrate New Year’s Day Monday, ushering in the first day of 1993, according to the Julian calendar, which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the nation still adhere to.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is also the custodian of the country’s unique alphabet based on the ancient Ge’ez Script, still uses Ge’ez liturgy during church services such as the New Year’s Eve night mass. The Ge’ez script dates back to the first century AD.
Julius Caesar in 45 BC introduced the Julian calendar, which Ethiopia is the only country that still adheres to.
It continued serving the entire western and Christian world as a standard calendar until Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new Calendar, bearing his name, in 1582.
The Gregorian calendar
corrected in the Julian calendar 5 to 15
marked by the restriction of centesimal years as leap
years to those divisible by 400, according to historical data.
Historians note that the origin of the Julian calendar dates back to the ancient Egyptian Sun calendar, closely linked with the annual flooding of the Nile River.
The Julian calendar divides the year into 12 months of 30 days each and the remaining five or six days in a leap year makes up the 13th month.
This system is still used in Ethiopia, and the 13th month is known as
From 11 September (12 during leap year) until the end of December, the Ethiopian year is 7 years behind the European calendar year, and 8 years thereafter until the 10th or 11th September.
When the rest of the world celebrated the millennium and New Year’s day on 1st January 2000, it was the 22nd day of the fourth month of the year 1992 for Ethiopians using the Julian calendar. Ethiopian New Year’s Day - Meskerem 1, 1993 - accordingly falls on 11 September 2000.
In addition to church services, New Year’s Day is observed with
family get-togethers, with young girls visiting neighbourhoods singing
Enqutatash, and carrying yellow daisy flowers and green grass
with thick and tall stems, symbolising that the three-month rainy
season is to end within two weeks.
They are rewarded with token gifts of food and money for their efforts.
Young boys also welcome the New Year by going around neighbourhoods singing and wishing families in the refrain of their songs a happy and prosperous New Year. They too are given a similar reward.
Torches of dry leaves and wood bundled in the form of tall and thick
sticks are also set on fire on the eve of the New Year in front of
houses as the young and old sing, ushering
the pot full of food
in and putting the empty one outside.
It is in the face of this symbolism in Ethiopia, where over 10 million of its nearly 64 million are in need of food assistance caused by drought, that religious leaders imploring citizens to give generously to their needy compatriots.
In their New Year’s messages, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abuma Paulos, Cardinal Berhane Yesus of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, and Reverend Yadessa Daba, head of the Ethiopian evangelical church, Mekane Yesus, called on the people to remember the poor and the disadvantaged during the celebrations.
The religious heads also appealed to compatriots to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and show compassion to the children orphaned by the disease and the victims of the pandemic in general, according to their messages published in the Ethiopian Herald Sunday.