Enkutatash or Ithiopian (Ethiopian) New Year is celebrated on September 11th according to the Western or Gregorian calendar.
Ethiopia's unique Ge'ez calendar, based on the ancient Egyptian system, is seven years, nine months and 11 days behind the one adopted by Pope Gregory in 1582, so September 2008 is Meskerem 2001 in Ithiopia.However people started to celebrate "Enkutatash" in Ethiopia three thousand years ago.
Enkutatash is an important festival in the lives of Ithiopians. 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.
The spring festival has been celebrated since this early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside. When Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, returned to Ithiopia 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 in spring. Meskerem is seen as a month of transition from the old year to the new. It is a time to express hopes and dreams for the future.
Orthodox Enkutatash Celebrations
The largest religious celebration is in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the city of Gaynt in the Gondar Region. For 3 days the sounds of psalms, sermons, prayers and hymns can be heard as colourful processions welcome the New Year. There is a large celebration nearer to Addis Abeba, the capital, at the Ragual Church on Entoto mountain.
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 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 they have drawn. In the evening families 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.
But Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Today's Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated - in lieu or the traditional bouquet of flowers.
The Ethiopian people believe that the New Year will bring new things and is a day of Happiness and Laughter.