Saturday, September 11, 2010

Melkam Addis Amat!!!

Melkam Addis Amat = Happy New Year

Today is the Ethiopian New Year!  Every year it is celebrated on September 11th (Meskerem 1st).  The Ethiopians still follow the Orthodox Julian calender.  It consists of 12 months of 30 days and a 13th month, Pagume, of 5 or 6 days (depending on leap year).  The Ethiopian Calendar is seven years and eight months behind in Western Calendar, so they are celebrating year 2003!

The whole way they measure time in Ethiopia is different from the West.  Their clock starts at 6am western time and runs until 6pm.  Because Ethiopia is so close to the Equator, the sun rises at around 00.30 Ethiopian time and sets at around 12.45 in the evening (6.45 western equivalent) all year round.  That puts Ethiopia 3 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

The years run in a four year cycle bearing the names of the Gospels with the year of John (or Yohannes) being the leap year.  This is what their months look like:

Meskerem (11th September)
Tikimt (11th October)
Hidar (10th November)
Tahsas (10th December)
Tir (9th January)
Yakatit (8th February)
Maggabit (10th March)
Miyazya (9th April)
Ginbot (9th May)
Sene (8th June)
Hamle (8th July)
Nehasa (7th August)
Pagume (7th September)

Enkutatash is an important festival for the Ethiopians.  After three months of heavy rains, the sun comes out creating a beautiful clear fresh atmosphere.  The highland fields turn to gold as the Meskal daisies burst into flower.  When the Queen of Sheba returned to Ethiopia after her famous visit to King Solomon, her chiefs welcomed her forward by giving her "enku" or jewels.  Enkutatash which means "gift of jewels" has been celebrated ever since spring. 

On New Year's Eve, torches of dry leaves and wood bundled in the form of tall and thick sticks are also set on fire in front of the houses as the young and old sing.  Early in the morning everybody goes to Church wearing traditional Ethiopian clothing.  After church there is a family meal of Injera (flat bread) and Wat (stew).  the girls go from house to house singing New Year songs for money and the boys sell pictures that the yhave drawn.  in the evening, familis go to visit their friends and drink Tella, the traditional Ethiopian beer.  While the elders discuss their hopes for the New Year, the children go and spend the money they have earned.

In more recent times, it has also become usual for well-to-do city dwellers to send each other New Year greetings cards instead of the more traditional bunches of flowers.

How fun does this look???



Kelly Jo said...

Wow...very interesting...thanks for sharing!! :)

Kelly Jo said...

Wow...very interesting...thanks for sharing!! :)

Alison said...

Happy New Year! :) And you have GOT to come visit us in MS, so we can introduce ya'll to Chick-fil-a! We lived in Sacramento for 6 months, and I remember how bad I missed Chick-fil-a! They need to put some on the west coast, for sure!! :)