Enkutatash – Ethiopian New Year (September 11th)

Enkutatash celebrates both the New Year and the Feast of John the Baptist at the end of the long spring rains, when the Highlands are covered with wild flowers. Ethiopian children, clad in brand-new clothes, dance through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each household.

September 11 is both New Year’s Day and the feast of St John the Baptist. The day is called Enkutatash meaning the "gift of jewels." When the famous Queen of Sheba retuned from her expensive journey to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her back by replenishing her treasury with enku, 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. In the evening every house lights a bonfire and there is much singing and dancing.

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The main religious celebration takes place at the 14th-century Kidus Yohannes church in the city of Genet in the Gonder Region. Three days of prayers, psalms and hymns, and massive colorful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on top of Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration. Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday but is also a celebration of springtime and renewed life. Modern Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among urban people.

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On New Year’s Eve, torches are made out of dry leaves and wood, and lit alight in front of the houses. This lighting of the torches is then accompanied by the singing of songs by the young and the old. At wee hours of the morning, people dress themselves in traditional Ethiopian clothing as they pay a visit to the church which is followed by a family meal comprising of Injera which is basically a form of flat Bread and Water , which can be used with a stew.

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The girls in Ethiopia on this occasion go singing New Year Songs from door to door and receive money for it, much like the tradition of Christmas choirs and carol singing children, the boys of Ethiopia on the other hand sell pictures that have been drawn by them. With the advent of the evening people go and visit their family and friends as they drink Tella which is the locally brewed traditional Ethiopian beer. Also as the elders sit together and discuss about things that concern them like, the hopes for a New Year, the children roam around freely and try to spend the money that they managed to earn on the occasion.

The African Heritage Foundations sends Enkutatash greetings with messages of love and prosperity for all.

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