Happy Ethiopian New Year 2015
On the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 365 days, six hours, two minutes and 24 seconds. There are 13 months in a year where 12 months have each 30 days and the last month, Pagume, has five days — or six days in a leap year.
The 13th month, Pagume, comes from the Greek word epagomene, which means “days forgotten when a year is calculated.” September is called Meskerem in Amharic, the first month of the year. Accordingly, in Ethiopia and for Sept. 11 marks Meskerem 1, 2015. Festivities to celebrate Ethiopian New Year include family gatherings to enjoy a traditional Enkutatash meal and celebrate together by giving children gifts. Celebrations start by burning specially designed long woods in front of village centres on the night of the eve of Enkutatash, on which many families attend a church service and offer prayers ushering in the New Year.
On the morning of New Year’s Day, all across the country small groups of young girls dressed in bright white traditional outfits go door to door all around their village, singing Happy New Year. Boys paint coloured flowers and present to their parents, neighbours and relatives.
The Ethiopian calendar was based on the Julian calendar, except that the year started on 1 September and the year number used an Anno Mundi epoch derived from the Septuagint version of the Bible. It placed the date of creation at 5509 years before the incarnation of Jesus, and was characterized by a certain tendency that had already been a tradition among Jews and early Christians to number the years from the calculated foundation of the world. Its Year One, marking the supposed date of creation, was Sept. 1, 5509 BC, to Aug. 31, 5508 BC.
Modern-day Ethiopia still embraces its ancient calendar. However, travelers hardly experience any inconveniences because of the calendar difference as most Ethiopians are aware of the Gregorian calendar and some even use both calendars interchangeably. Wishing a Happy New Year to Ethiopians at this particular time of this millennium comes with the thought of the lingering civil war that caused an immense suffering. Millions of Ethiopians are internally displaced and passing the New Year in camps and shelters. Hundreds of thousands of young girls and boys don’t have the luxury of singing Happy New Year in their own villages. Schools are closed in most parts of the northern and western part of the country.
In the New Year 2015, Ethiopians wish primarily to bring peace and lasting stability to their country so that the internally displaced millions may return to their villages and houses.
It’s very unfortunate that in the last two weeks a new round of full-fledged war started. There were hopes that the African Union was helping to facilitate some kind of peace settlement. The temporary ceasefire was broken by warring groups and government forces and that hope for peace is dashed with renewed violence and large-scale displacement.
The civilian population is tired of the suffering caused by the senseless war. The loss of life, displacement and hunger has to stop in the New Year. Let all Ethiopians inside and outside the country stand together and put pressure on the politicians to bring peace without any further delay.
Talking and wishing for peace is not enough to guarantee or bring about a lasting settlement. Warring parties must go far beyond the talks and participate in real dialogue to narrow their differences.
Happy New Year 2015 to all Ethiopians. Let 2015 be a year of peace and reconciliation.
Cridit: Mulugeta Dilnesahu
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