It’s time to celebrate Enkutatash!
Wondering what that is? It’s Ethiopia’s New Year celebration! Let’s see what it’s all about!
When is Enkutatash?
Enkutatash is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia on the calendar they use. The month is called Meskerem, and it corresponds with September 11 or 12 on the Gregorian calendar. (The date changes during a Leap Year).
The country of Ethiopia uses a calendar all its own based on the ancient Egyptian calendar, which was the influence for the Julian calendar.
It has 12 months that are 30 days long, and a 13th month consisting of 5-6 days. Called the “lost days,” this extra month makes up for the extras so that their year stays consistent with the seasons.
Ready for a little time travel? Because of some differing calculations, their calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Gregorian calendar. That means it's only 2013 in Ethiopia!
The date is the approximate end of the rainy season for the country, and they have large celebrations around the country.
What Does Enkutatash Mean?
Enkutatash translates to “gift of jewels.” The reason for that is the date coincides with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia after she had traveled to meet King Solomon. This story is from the bible and goes back to the 10th century BC.
This legend goes back almost 3,000 years!
Upon her return, it’s said that she was welcomed home by the local rulers with gifts of jewels to replenish her stores because she took gifts of gold, precious stones, and spices to King Solomon.
How Do The People of Ethiopia Celebrate Their New Year?
The holiday of Enkutatash is part Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is a branch of Christianity, and part secular for the end of the 3-month long rainy season.
Raguel Church on Entoto Mountain
For the church activities, programs in some places start on the eve of Enkutatash and last into the next morning.
The main religious celebration is held at a church that was built in the 14th century. Kidus Yohannes in the city of Genet in the Gondar region of Ethiopia holds services that last 3 days!
Filled with prayers, singing, and colorful processions, they ring in the New Year.
The largest religious celebration takes place near the capital city of Addis Ababa. The Raguel church on top of Entoto Mountain has the most spectacular celebration!
Singing and dancing is found in all the little villages across the country. Children get all dressed up in colorful clothing.
Bouquets of wild flowers are gathered and given to friends and family. Due to the rainy season, the countryside is filled with Meskal daisies!
Children will also present friends with pictures of saints, painted by themselves.
Enkutatash is a celebration of new beginnings, and the coming of spring (in the southern hemisphere the seasons are opposite of the northern hemisphere.)
It Wouldn't Be Enkutatash Without A Feast!
Families and friends gather together for yummy food and great company.
Traditional dishes that are served during Enkutatash are
This spicy chicken stew is a national dish in Ethiopia. Slow-cooked chicken simmered with chile, garlic, berbere, cardamom, and ginger is served with boiled eggs, or rice, and injera, which is Ethiopian flatbread that’s spongy and made of teff flour.
A dish made from beef, liver, lamb tripe, and spices. Most of the time it’s served raw, and usually with injera to scoop it up. Injera is really three things in one. It serves as a bread, a sponge, and as a utensil! Pretty all-purpose stuff.
It’s also called genfo in Amharic. Barley flour or cornmeal are used to make this stiff porridge-like dish. It’s shaped into a volcano shape and the center is filled with a spicy dipping sauce, and blended yogurt is poured around the sides. The dipping sauce is made from a mixture of butter and red peppers.
This is a home-brewed liquor made from grapes and aniseed. It’s known as one of the strongest drinks in Ethiopia! Yikes! That’s a potent brew.
Coffee is a staple in the food and culture of Ethiopia. Coffee plants originate from the country.
During the Enkutatash celebrations, there is a coffee ceremony. This ceremony of serving and drinking coffee can last for hours! It gives friends and family a chance to catch up on news with each other.
One thing about being invited for coffee in Ethiopia? It’s a sign of great respect!
The celebrations for Enkutatash are not limited to Ethiopia though. Places all around the globe with an Ethiopian community celebrate the holiday with family and friends.
Exploring other countries traditions and holidays is a great way to learn more about the world we all live in…or on! Dive into the land of the Queen of Sheba with our Ethiopia box from eat2explore!