Ethiopian New Year and The 13th Month

   Ethiopian New Year, also known as ‘Enkutatash(Ge’ez:እንቁጣጣሽ)’, is the celebration of the Ethiopian calendar’s New Year. It falls on September 11th (or September 12th during a leap year) according to the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian calendar is based on the ancient Coptic calendar, which traces its origins back to the time of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt.

    The name “Enkutatash” translates to “gift of jewels” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. It commemorates the return of the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, where she received gifts of jewels. According to Ethiopian tradition, this event marked a new beginning and was celebrated with great joy and festivity.

    Enkutatash is a time for Ethiopians to gather with family and friends, exchange gifts, and express gratitude for the blessings of the past year while looking forward to a prosperous new one. It is a time of renewal and hope, symbolizing the start of a fresh chapter in life.

    Traditional celebrations often involve colorful processions, music, dancing, feasting, and religious ceremonies. Children often also draws indicates best wishes for their families and neighbors. The celebration typically begins on the eve of Enkutatash with church services held throughout Ethiopia.  People attend special prayers, hymns and dress in traditional clothing, which include white garments called ‘shemma (Ge’ez ሸማ)’ for men and ‘Habesha kemis (Ge’ez ሃበሻ ቀሚስ)’ for women. These garments are made from handwoven cotton fabric and are adorned with vibrant patterns. Afterward, families gather for a festival meal that includes traditional dishes such as injera (a sourdough flatbread), bread, doro wat (spicy chicken stew) and other Ethiopian spicy food


    On the day of Enkutatash itself, people wake up early to clean their homes and decorate them with flowers. Young children go from house to house singing songs and receiving small gifts or money from their loved ones after giving them drawings of flowers. This tradition is similar to Christmas caroling in other cultures.

  In addition to these customs, there is another unique aspect of the Ethiopian calendar that sets it apart from most other calendars around the world. The Ethiopian calendar consists of 13 months, with each month having 30 days except for the last month, which has 5 or 6 days depending on whether it is a leap year. This extra month is called Pagume (ጳጉሜን) and is considered a time for reflection and spiritual contemplation.

   The Ethiopian calendar follows the ancient Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE. However, while the Coptic calendar starts on August 29th, the Ethiopian calendar starts on September 11th (or September 12th during a leap year) due to differences in calculations and adjustments made over the centuries.

   Enkutatash is not only celebrated in Ethiopia but also by Ethiopians living abroad. Communities around the world come together to commemorate this special occasion,keeping their cultural heritage alive and passing it on to future generations.

   To calculate the additional month of “Pagume” in Ethiopia’s calendar, it is important to understand the Ethiopian calendar system and the concept of “Pagume” itself. The Ethiopian calendar, also known as the Ge’ez calendar, is a solar calendar that follows a different calculation method compared to the Gregorian calendar used in most parts of the world.

The Ethiopian calendar consists of 12 months of 30 days each, with an additional 13th month called “Pagume.” This extra month is added at the end of the year to align the Ethiopian calendar with the solar year. However, it is important to note that “Pagume” is not considered a full month but rather a short period of five or six days.

Calculating the occurrence of “Pagume” involves determining whether a leap year has occurred. In the Ethiopian calendar system, a leap year occurs every four years. During a leap year, an additional day is added to the last month, resulting in a total of 366 days instead of the usual 365.     

To calculate whether a specific year has an additional “Pagume” month, you can follow these steps:

    1. Determine if the year is a leap year: Divide the Ethiopian year by four. If there is no remainder, it is a leap year. For example, if the year is  2024 (Ethiopian calendar), dividing it by four would result in zero remainder, indicating that it is a leap year.

    2. If it is a leap year, subtract one day from the last day of the 13th month (Pagume). This will result in a total of five days for Pagume.

    3. If it is a leap year, Pagume will consist of five days.

  It’s important to note that due to differences between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars, there may be variations in dates when t’s important to note that due to differences between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars, there may be variations in date when comparing events or holidays between Ethiopia and other countries.

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