On September 12, 2019 I was celebrating Ethiopian New Year 2012! Yes, you read it correctly! 2012!
I have actually forgotten where did I celebrate 2012 but, for sure, I’ll remember the Ethiopian New Year 2012.
How did I end up in a celebration of Ethiopian New Year 2012 – in 2019?
The Ethiopian Battalion in Yambio, where I’ve been living since end of November 2018, organized a celebration of their New Year 2012. Among invited guests, I was also invited to be part of their joy.
Despite knowing that the dinner served would be of no use to me as most of the Ethiopian food is hot, I decided to not miss on this opportunity. After all, it was a good chance for me to understand more about why this change in years for Ethiopians (and later on I found it is for Eritreans also) and also to enjoy some cultural program of Ethiopia. Moreover, having been to Ethiopia and planning to go again (hopefully in this Ethiopian New Year 2012), I thought it wouldn’t harm at all.
Why Ethiopian New Year 2012?
I’m not going to give you a very long explanation (you can read all the details in Wikipedia LOL). However, to make the long story short – the Ethiopian church did not agree with the date of birth of Jesus Christ and thus did not adopt the Gregorian calendar which is used by the rest of the world (minus Eritrea) and decided to keep the Julian calendar. Basically, this is the only reason why Ethiopia is still in 2012!
Julian calendar has 13 months (I wonder if Ethiopians, by default, get the 13th salary?) where the 13th month has 5 or 6 days (previous Ethiopian year – 2011 – was a leap year just like it happens in our calendar when February has 29 days).
In fact, what we were invited to celebrate with Ethiopian Battalion (ETHBATT) was the first day of the New Year, or known as Enkutatash, which in other words mean the day of exchanging gifts. This also has a backstory. To sum it up, that day Queen of Sheba return to Ethiopia after visiting King Solomon in Jerusalem who gives her a ring as a gift. Hence, gift exchanging on the first day of the New Year.
Another interesting fact about Ethiopia?
They use a different time. Internationally, Ethiopia is at the same timezone as Kenya, in East Africa Time (GMT +03:00); however, locals use their own Ethiopian time. And I’m not talking here about being late, or fashionably late. I’m talking for a totally different system of time. Ethiopians use a 12-hour clock in two cycles – one from dawn to dusk and the other from dusk to dawn. Namely, when it’s 7am in East Africa Time that translates into 1 in daylight hours into Ethiopian time. Then, the 7pm in EAT is 1 in Ethiopian time.
When I was waiting for my flight from Addis Ababa to Mekelle this past May on my first trip there, I wrote to the hotel I was staying to pick me up at the airport at 19:30. I got the strangest response ever – we can’t send someone at that time because it’s too late. I was horrified, worried, and angry. How can a hotel say it’s too late if there are flights landing and you say you offer a taxi service. That was my exact answer and then I received another message asking me what time would that be in local time. I started wondering but had no clear idea. I had read about this time difference but hadn’t remembered what was the “conversion”. I also expected a hotel manager/receptionist to know the conversion and not ask me. After all, I was on a short visit while they, for sure, had many international tourists. Anyway, I asked an airport employee and he took a little bit of time to answer. Finally, I got the answer and responded to the hotel that I’ll be reaching at 1:30. All confusion aside, the pick up was there on time and, what is surprising, the driver knew both English and also a little bit about Kosovo’s history and past.