Happy New Year!

By Zach Walters, Volunteer

Did you know that Ethiopia celebrates the new year or Enkutatash in September? September 11th – or Meskerem 1st, according to the Ethiopian calendar – marks the first day of the Ethiopian New Year. Ethiopia follows the orthodox Julian calendar which consists of twelve thirty-day months, starting in Meskerem (September) and ending in Nehase (August), or in leap years, a five-to-six-day month known as Pagumin.  Therefore, Ethiopia is preparing to enter the year 2011 according to the Julian calendar.

The new year coincides with several reasons for joy; the year’s final month, Nehase, concludes a three-month rainy season and the welcoming of clearer, warmer weather to ring in the new year. With the return of sunnier days comes the flourishing of important crops like barley and corn, ending seasonal food shortages for the agriculturally-dependent nation.

At home, Ethiopian families ring in the new year starting on September 10th lighting wooden torches, known as chibo in Amharic, to symbolize the new season of sunshine. The lighting of these torches is also accompanied by singing and dancing. Families come together to share in a special meal that often includes a spicy chicken stew called Doro Wat followed by a ceremony of freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.

The first month of the new year is also highlighted by national festivals and religious celebrations. One of the most celebrated holidays, Meskel, is observed by the Orthodox Church in Meskerem to commemorate the founding of the True Cross, referring to the physical remnants of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. In celebration, a large bonfire, or Demera, is burnt in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and yellow, daisy-like “Meskel flowers” are scattered across the season’s greener pastures.

Project Ethiopia would like to wish all our friends and supporters a happy and healthy new year!

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