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The Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash), (September 11)

The Ethiopian calendar registers the New Year on Meskerem (September); first, as a commemoration of the receding of the great storm during the time of Noah and secondly as a remembrance of Kidus Yohannes, (St. John the Baptist) beheading.  Hence, the Ethiopian new year is also known as Kidus Yohannes, in memory of the saint and his sacrifice. All these symbolize the transition from the Old Testament to New Testament. The Ethiopian New Year also honours’ the seasonal transition from the heavy rainy season to the bright one. The safe transition from the rainy season to the breathtaking bright Meskerem is symbolic of the passage from an awe inspiring night into a beautiful morning. Thus, believers celebrate it with first Enkutatash and then Meskal holidays. The prior season is grey and dull, and is awe-inspiring and often frightening, with lightning and thunder accompanied by powerful rains for a lengthy period. Traditionally, it was believed that death was at hand during this season time, and so insecurity and fear ran rampant. The clergymen sing about the dawning of Meskerem because they consider the preceding rainy season a season of darkness.

Within the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, many religious services accompany Enkutatash. Liturgical services such as the chanting, preaching, and the explanation of the New Year calendar are performed after the mass when is conducted in the morning, and before the mass, when the mass is conducted in the afternoon. After the chanting and preaching, the high priest or the Aleka (head) of each church reads the calendar of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is called Bahre-Hassab.         This indicates the times of the festivals, the beginning and end of the fasting days during that year. The same priest then declares the replacement of the old year by the new. 

Both Enkutatash and Meskal fall during the mass blooming of golden yellow Meskal daisies known as ‘adey ababa’. At the celebrations of Enkutatash and Meskal, children can be heard singing interesting traditional seasonal songs. “Eyoha abebaye / Meskerem tebaye / Meskerem siteba adey sifeneda/ Enkuan sew zemedu yieteykal  bada…..” roughly translated as “the bright season of September  with the fields decorated with blooming flowers encourage people to visit not only kinsmen friends….”            These words announce the coming of the bright Ethiopian month with its colorful flowers. The song also encourages everybody to pay a visit to his or her relatives, because the now-receding rivers make it easier for people to travel from place to place. The best time of visiting Ethiopia is impeccably this time of the year. 

Etymologists relate Enkutatash to the visit of the queen of Sheba to King Solomon of Israel. This new New Year celebration as a national holiday is celebrated both by Muslims and Christians.