Enkutatash: An Ethiopian New Year Celebration

Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day (or Enkutatash) is celebrated in September towards the end of the big rains. Unlike the 1 January date, which is comparatively arbitrary, New Year’s Day in Ethiopia marks a new season and a new beginning.
The grass is green, the sun has come out, and there is fresh food to be harvested. Apart from the cyclical explanation for the timing of Ethiopian New Year, there is also a legend which maintains that Enkutatash is celebrated to commemorate the return of Queen Sheba from Jerusalem.
Presently in Addis Ababa, New Year’s Eve is spent feasting and partying. On New Year’s Day, the house is decorated with pretty little yellow Meskal daisies. Children make gifts of colorful paintings or spring flowers to give to their family and friends. Girls, dressed in their new Ethiopian dresses and armed with a kabero (small drum), go from house to house singing a special Enkutatash song, in return for some money. The main religious celebration takes place in the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the town of Gaynt, in the Gondar region. Three days of prayers, psalms, hymns and sermons, and huge colourful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of the Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration.

In the United States, Enkutatash is typically celebrated on or around September 11th.  Public celebrations of Enkutatash often occur on the weekend before or immediately after the ‘official’ holiday.  In the coming weeks, I’ll list various Enkutatash celebrations scheduled in North America, including the one I’m helping to plan in Columbus OH.  If you know of an Enkutatash celebration in your neck of the woods, don’t be shy.  Leave a comment (and perhaps a link) and I’ll add a post about it here.
Melkam Addis Amet!


3 thoughts on “Enkutatash: An Ethiopian New Year Celebration

  1. Happy new year to you too. The Ethiopian community will be celebrating Ethiopian New Year in Cincinnati Ohio on Saturday Sept 10th 2011, 9 PM -2 AM.
    Please come join us at:
    St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church
    2524 Victory Parkway
    Cincinnati, OH 45206
    Cultural Entertainment, Ethiopian Food, Beverages & more
    (Included in ticket price)
    For more information or questions please call : (513)885-5846 or (513)257-7583

  2. Araya

    Please let us know once you’ve selected a date for the 2012 celebration. The planning team in Columbus is very eager to attend your celebration as well. Soon, soon I hope!

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