You may have heard about ‘Chinese New Year’, but now we have ‘Ethiopian New Year’ too. The Ethiopian New Year is celebrated on 11th September, according to the Gregorian calendar. Other than the celebrations being called by this name, it is also known as ‘Enkutatash or Enqutatash’. As the rest of the world indulges in a normal lifestyle, every year in Ethiopia, it is time to usher in a new year.
The Origins of ‘The Ethiopian New Year’
If we were to trace the roots of the Enkutatash, biblical scholars cite it when Queen of Sheba came back after visiting Solomon, the tribal elders ornamented her with jewels known as ‘enku’. Therefore, the Amharic word ‘Enkutatash’ is translated as ‘Gift of the jewels’ and it is celebrated during the spring season, hoping for a prosperous and bright future.
This important festival symbolizes the arrival of a good harvest for the Ethiopian farmers and also for every citizen of the country. After exuberant downpours, the country is enveloped with a fresh atmosphere and clear skies in the month of September. The surrounding landscape seems to be flourishing with flowers and the land seems to be plated with gold, as the glittering daisies bloom in complete glory.
The grand celebration is held in the city of Gaynt, in a 14th century Kostete Yohannes Church. For a length of 3 days you can just hear Psalms, hymns, prayers and sermons sounding throughout the city, while jovial processions and parades do not lag behind in charming the crowd. Massive celebrations are also carried out near the capital city of Addis Ababa.
The ‘Enkutatash’ Customs
During New Year’s Eve, the dry leaves and the wood is used for creating torches, which are lit in front of the houses. The lighting of the torches is followed by a mass singing. At dawn, people dress in traditional clothes as they visit churches, which is then followed by a family meal of bread (known as Difo Dabo) and stew.
Young girls, groomed with gleaming white traditional dress, along with a bouquet of Adey Ababa, go from door to door singing songs for which they receive money, very much similar to Christmas carols. The boys, aged 10, get busy. It is then time for them to bring out their paint brushes and get creative.
The paintings highlight angels, flowers, sun to keep the festive spirit enlivened. Then they go around selling self-made drawings. By evening, people visit their family and friends and enjoy sipping Tella, an Ethiopian beer. The elders, gather together and talk about future things.
Hope by now you could capture the detailed and true spirit of Enkutatash. This article as been an homage to the warm and captivating Ethiopian Holiday as fragrant memories of such events delight us as well as arouse our senses, connecting us universally with joyful memories such as holidays.