Today the New Year is celebrated in Ethiopia, which symbolises the dawn of something good and new in many ways
Anyone who has never been to Ethiopia or who has not taken a closer look at the country’s traditions will wonder why, to Ethiopians, today is the 1/1/2013. Ethiopians celebrate the New Year, which is called Enkutatash in Amharic, and is heralded on 11 September (12 in leap years) of the Gregorian calendar.
Enkutatash means „gift of jewels“ and reminds us of the legend of the Ethiopian New Year. About 3000 years ago, the Queen of Sheba, ruler of ancient Ethiopia and Yemen, is said to have returned from her famous visit to Jerusalem and King Solomon. She had brought gold, spices and jewels to the Israeli king and, in order to replenish her treasury, she was herself received with jewels, amharic enku, by her tribal leaders on her return. The day of her arrival in Ethiopia fell on the day of the New Year in September, which is why it was now called Enkutatash.
The fact that in Ethiopia we now speak of 1 January, in Amharic 1 Meskerem, and not of 11 September, is due to the Ethiopian calendar. It is similar to the Orthodox Julian calendar, whose year consists of twelve equally divided months of 30 days each and of a thirteenth month, the pagume. Pagume, with its five (six in leap years) days, completes the 365 (or 366) days of a year. And why is it now 2013? The difference of almost eight years between the first month of 2013 and the ninth month of 2020 is based on the fact that the Julian and Gregorian calendars use different dates for the birth of Jesus. Furthermore, in Ethiopia, the New Year marks the end of the rainy season and thus the beginning of good harvest weather. Grey, rainy, misty days are left behind, and the arrival of better sunny weather with blooming flowers is celebrated. During this season, the blossoms of the Meskel daisy cover large areas of the highlands and give it an almost golden colour, which underlines the festivity of Enkutatash.
The new year will be even more important for the students and staff of PROJECT-E and all other educational institutions in the country. The Meskerem is the month when school starts, and the Ethiopian school year in the Gregorian calendar runs from September to either the end of June, or the beginning of July of the following year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, including the PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute (PEHI), have been closed for a long time, but the Ethiopian government recently declared the reopening of schools, especially for younger children, to be a top priority for the end of September.
Meanwhile, our five-part countdown to PEHI’s fifth anniversary on 3rd October continues.
In 2015 or rather 2008 in the Ehtiopian calender, when the hotel school was being developed, ensuring the opening at the beginning of the school year after New Year was ranking high in the list of priorities, says Livia Röthlisberger, the then active Country Representative. Until we find out more in the interview with Livia in part 4 of 5 of the anniversary series, we wish readers a happy new Ethiopian year. Melkam Addis Amet to everyone, and we hope that the pandemic will not greatly detract from the positive mood on the occasion of the holiday, which usually unites people of different religious and cultural backgrounds!