Friday, October 9, 2015

Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year

Enkutatash is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia. It occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is 11 September (or, during a leap year, 12 September) according to the Gregorian calendar.

This festival celebrates both the New Year and the Feast of John the Baptist at the end of the long spring rains, when the Highlands are covered with wild flowers, especially the yellow flowers of the Meskal daisies. The day is called Enkutatash meaning the "gift of jewels" and is traditionally associated with the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in ca. 980 BC.

The main religious celebration occur in Gaynet, near Gondar, in the 14th century Kidus Yohannes Church. Three days of prayers, psalms and hymns, and massive colorful processions mark the advent of the New Year. In Addis Ababa, the largest celebration takes place in the Raguel Church, on top of Entoto Mountain, about 10 km from the city centre.

After attending church in the morning, families gather to share a traditional meal of injera (flat bread) and wat (stew). Later in the day, young girls and boys singing New Year’s songs donning new clothes, gather daisies and present friends with a bouquet. Today Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Modern Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated – in lieu of the traditional bouquet of flowers.

It is a beautiful, colorful and fascinating time for a visit to Ethiopia! Travel Ethiopia highly recommends a visit in September especially for photographers!

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