Where in the world do you find a country with 13 months of sunshine? A country with it’s own unique calender, where its new year falls on its own day? Welcome to Ethiopia where you get fascinated with countless unique things. You will feel a different world order with it’s own calendar, time, alphabet…

The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር; yä’Ityoṗṗya zämän aḳoṭaṭär) is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo churches, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Orthodox Church. It is a sidereal calendar based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which in turn derives from the Egyptian calendar, but like the Julian calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on August 29 or August 30 in the Julian calendar. A seven- to eight-year gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from an alternate calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation of Jesus.

Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopic calendar has twelve months of exactly 30 days each plus five or six pagome days, which comprise a thirteenth month (all of which is a public holiday). The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge’ez. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years without exception on August 29 of the Julian calendar, six months before the Julian leap day. Thus the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Mäskäräm, for years between 1901 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually September 11 (Gregorian). It, however, falls on September 12 in years before the Gregorian leap year.

New Year’s Day

The Ethiopian New Year has many names in many indigenous languages. You know Ethiopia has more than 85 proud ethnics with their own rich calture and language. Enkutatash is the name for the Ethiopian New Year, and means “gift of jewels” in the Amharic language. The story goes back almost 3,000 years to the Queen of Sheba, of ancient Ethiopia (Kingdom of Axum), a woman of great wealth, beauty, and power, who was returning from a trip to visit King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Bible in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. She had gifted Solomon with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia her chiefs welcomed her with enku or jewels to replenish her treasury. It occurs on September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for leap years, when it occurs on September 12. The Ethiopian calendar year 2007 ‘Amätä Məhrät (“Year of Mercy”) began on September 11, 2014. However, the Ethiopian years 2004 and 2000 began on September 12, 2011 and 2007, respectively.

This date correspondence applies from the Gregorian years 1900 to 2099. The Ethiopian leap year is every four without exception, while Gregorian centurial years are only leap years when divisible by 400; thus a set of corresponding dates will most often apply for a single century. As the Gregorian year 2000 is a leap year, the current correspondence lasts two centuries instead.

Eras

To indicate the year, Ethiopians and followers of the Eritrean churches today use the Incarnation Era, which dates from the Annunciation or Incarnation of Jesus on March 25 of 9 AD (Julian), as calculated by Annianus of Alexandria c. 400; thus its first civil year began seven months earlier on August 29, 8 AD. Meanwhile, Europeans eventually adopted the calculations made by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD instead, which placed the Annunciation eight years earlier than had Annianus. This causes the Ethiopian year number to be eight years less than the Gregorian year number from January 1 until September 10 or 11, then seven years less for the remainder of the Gregorian year.

In the past, a number of other eras for numbering years were also widely used in Ethiopia and the Axumite Kingdom.

Leap year cycle

The four-year leap-year cycle is associated with the four Evangelists: the first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named in honour of John, followed by the Matthew-year and then the Mark-year. The year with the sixth epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke-year.

There are no exceptions to the four-year leap-year cycle, unlike the Gregorian calendar.

Months

Ge’ez, Amharic, and Tigrinya
(with Tigrinya suffixes in parentheses)
Coptic Julian
(Old Calendar)
Start Date
Gregorian
Start Date
[March 1900 to February 2100]
Gregorian Start Date
in Year after Ethiopian Leap Day
Mäskäräm (መስከረም) Tut (Thout) August 29 September 11 September 12
Ṭəqəmt(i) (ጥቅምት) Babah (Paopi) September 28 October 11 October 12
Ḫədar (ኅዳር) Hatur (Hathor) October 28 November 10 November 11
Taḫśaś ( ታኅሣሥ) Kiyahk (Koiak) November 27 December 10 December 11
Ṭərr(i) (ጥር) Tubah (Tobi) December 27 January 9 January 10
Yäkatit (Tn. Läkatit) (የካቲት) Amshir (Meshir) January 26 February 8 February 9
Mägabit (መጋቢት) Baramhat (Paremhat) February 25 March 10 March 10
Miyazya (ሚያዝያ) Baramundah (Paremoude) March 27 April 9 April 9
Gənbot (ግንቦት) Bashans (Pashons) April 26 May 9 May 9
Säne (ሰኔ) Ba’unah (Paoni) May 26 June 8 June 8
Ḥamle (ሐምሌ) Abib (Epip) June 25 July 8 July 8
Nähase (ነሐሴ) Misra (Mesori) July 25 August 7 August 7
Ṗagʷəmen/Ṗagume (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ) Nasi (Pi Kogi Enavot) August 24 September 6 September 6

 

Note that these dates are valid only from March 1900 to February 2100. This is because 1900 and 2100 are not leap years in the Gregorian calendar, while they are still leap years in the Ethiopian calendar, meaning dates before 1900 and after 2100 will be off set.

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