Ethiopia still retains its own calendar, in which the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind between September 11 and January 8.
Enkutatash is the first day of the New Year, in Ethiopian calendar. Enkutatash means the “gift of jewels”. When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since these early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside.
Ethiopia’s most celebrated festival is Timket the Epiphany, which falls on 19th January and is the easiest for visitors to witness and enjoy. Timket is an extremely colourful three days festival commemorating the baptism of Christ. The dramatic and colourful procession of Timket starts on the eve at which priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. The following morning the great day itself, the church officials, resplendent in their gorgeous regalia, assemble around the Tabot and sprinkle and receive the renewals of their vows. If the body of water is large enough, some people willimmerse themselves. After this is done, the congregation follows the bishops, elders and clergy as the Tabot is carried back to the church from whence it came accompanied by much singing and dancing. The third day is devoted to the feast of St. Michael, the archangel, one of Ethiopia’s most popular saints. In Addis Ababa, many tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the north east of the city center. At 0200 there is a mass and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps. At down the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Since October and the end of the rains, the country has been drying up steadily. The sun blazes down from a clear blue sky and the festival of Timket always take place in glorious weather.
This is an extremely colorful three-day festival commemorating the baptism of Christ. The night before, priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense.
In Addis Ababa many tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At 0200 there is a Mass, and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps. At dawn the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Some of the congregation leaps into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the Churches in procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue Christmas, called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on 7 January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey, called genna, on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.
Kulubi (Feast of Saint Gabriel)
The feast of Saint Gabriel (kulubi Gebriel), the Archangel, is celebrated on December 19 Ethiopian calendar (December 28 Gregorian calendar) which culminates in a pilgrimage to Kulubi, about 68 kilometres from Dire Dawa. Orthodox Tewahedo Christians mark the celebration with colourful processions and ceremonies. Pilgrims walk up the hill to the church to fulfil a vow and give gifts to the church. Some pilgrims carry heavy rocks on their back up the hill to the church.
Fasika (Easter) is celebrated after 55 days severe Lent fasting (Hudade or Abye Tsome). Orthodox Tewahedo Christians do not eat meat and diary products for the whole 55 days. Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit and varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten on these days. The fist meal of the day is taken after 3 PM (9 o’clock in the afternoon Ethiopian time) during the fasting days, except Saturdays and Sundays, where a meal is allowed after the morning service.
On Easter eve people go to church and celebrate with candles which are lit during a colourful Easter mass service which begins at about 6 PM (12 o’clock in the evening Ethiopian time) and ends at about 2 AM (8 o’clock after mid-night Ethiopian time). Everyone goes home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb, slaughtered the previous night after 6 PM, accompanied with injera and traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej). Like Christmas, Easter is also a day of family re-union, an expression of good wishes with exchange of gifts (i.e. lamb, goat or loaf of bread).