Whether you are planning a trip to Ethiopia to volunteer, experience its wildlife parks, or visit its historical attractions, you will need to get familiar with the nation’s calendar.
According to the Ethiopian calendar, New Year —or Enkutatash, as it is known in Amharic, the country’s official language— is typically celebrated on September 11th or 12th depending on the year.
When is the Ethiopian New Year Celebrated?
This public holiday is celebrated on the 1st of Meskerem —the first day in the Ethiopian calendar.
The exact date of Enkutatash varies in relation to the Gregorian calendar used in most of the world depending on whether it is a leap year or not.
The following table states the dates for the Ethiopian New Year for the next 5 years:
The country’s New Year falls during what is known as the shoulder season —after the long rains subside— one of the best times of the year to visit Ethiopia since the weather is slightly cooler than during the summer.
History of the Ethiopian New Year
The word Enkutatash is heavy with symbolism as it not only means the ‘gift of jewels’ but also represents the end of the rainy season —the time of year during which the Ethiopian landscape is covered with bright yellow flowers called Adey Abeba.
The Ethiopian New Year’s celebration is said to date back to the time when the Queen of Sheba returned from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in 980 BC. The Queen was welcomed back in her country with plenty of jewels, also known as “enku” in the official national language.
Enkutatash celebrations for the Ethiopian New Year typically last an entire week and revolve around family gatherings.
On New Year’s Eve, Ethiopians light wooden torches —known as “chibo” in the local language— to symbolize the coming of the new season of sunshine now that the rain season comes to its end.
Foreign nationals that visit the country during this time of year may want to learn to say Happy New Year in Amharic: Enkuan Aderesachihu!
How is Enkutatash Celebrated in Ethiopia Today?
Festivities to celebrate Ethiopian New Year include family gatherings to enjoy a traditional Enkutatash meal and celebrate together by giving children gifts.
Celebrations start on the eve of Enkutatash, on which many families attend a church service and offer prayers ushering in the new year. Singing and dancing are also common ways to celebrate, especially among young girls.
Greeting cards have gradually replaced more traditional gifts such as bouquets of freshly picked yellow flowers that symbolize the arrival of spring as well as paintings of saints.
Typical Enkutatash Food Served During Ethiopian New Year’s Celebration
As in several cultural celebrations around the world, food plays a big part in the celebration of Enkutatash.
Families typically purchase an animal on New year’s Eve and slaughter it the following morning. A variety of typical dishes is then prepared and served for lunch.
Here are a few of the typical Ethiopian dishes enjoyed for Enkutatash:
- Doro Wot, a spicy chicken stew typically served with rice or flatbread known as injera
- Dulet. a combination of minced beef, liver, and lamb tripe, sometimes served raw
- Ga’at, a stiff porridge shaped like a donut, also known as Genfo that is often made of either barley flour or cornmeal and served with a dipping sauce in the middle
Drinks served include coffee —a staple on the Ethiopian table— and Araki, a strong homemade liquor that is typically made from grapes and aniseed.
Enkutatash Travel Advice
A vast majority of travelers —unless they hold a Kenyan passport— are required to obtain a visa for Ethiopia which grants them a stay of up to 3 months.
Most tourists are eligible to apply for an Ethiopia eVisa online. The application form is straightforward and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.
Once your visa and travel dates are sorted, remember to speak with your healthcare provider about any vaccinations you may require for Ethiopia.