Enkutatash - Celebration of Ethiopian New Year

Happy Ethiopian New Year

The rainy season is finally coming to an end in Ethiopia and Enkutatash is right around the corner. Monsoon rains from prior months will bring new life to the Ethiopian highlands as the fertile landscape literally turns to a lucious gold color as daisies start to blossom in the masses. These special Ethiopian daisies, referred to as Adey Abeba (also known as Bidens macroptera), are a sign of peace, hope and love because of their yellow symbolism. The flowers are presented as gifts, used to decorate households and serve a huge role in the celebration of Ethiopian New Year. By November, all of these flowers will be gone and won’t return until the following year in September.

Ethiopian New Year occurs on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar which is September 11th (or September 12th during leap year) on the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Back in Ethiopia, they go by the Orthodox Julian calendar which is made up of 12 months of 30 days along with a 13th month (Pagume) that consists of 5 or 6 days depending on if it’s leap year. When compared to the Gregorian calendar, this Ethiopian calendar is exactly 7 years and 8 months behind it.

"Gift of Jewels"

In Amharic, Enkutatash translates to “Gift of Jewels”, which actually has a story behind it. Over 3000 years ago, Queen of Sheba went to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. During her visit, she gifted many different items to Solomon, including spices, jewels and 120 talents of gold which is around 9,000 pounds! When she returned back to Ethiopia, her chiefs helped resupply her treasury with a gift of jewels.

The gift giving tradition is very popular for Enkutatash. Every year starts off with going to church in the morning. After church, friends and family will gather together to share a traditional meal of injera (flatbread) and wat (stew). In the afternoon, things get really exciting for children. Young girls will change into new clothes and venture out to collect daisies for friends and family. The daisies are often gifted as a bouquet accompanied by New Year’s songs and dancing. They will receive a gift in return which is usually money or bread. Young boys participate in a similar activity by drawing pictures of saints and giving them out. They would also receive some type of gift in exchange, which is usually money. While a bunch of flowers is a very traditional gift, people have started a new trend of sending each other New Year greeting cards in modern times.

Gather with Friends and Family

Depending on if people are religious or secular, there are plenty of celebrations back in Ethiopia for Enkutatash. You will find the largest religious gathering at the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the city of Gaynt (in the Gondar region). Processions last for 3 days where people take part in psalms, sermons, prayers and hymns. The largest celebration that’s secular is at the Regual Church on Etntoto, which is located in the capital Addis Ababa. Towards the end of the day of Enkutatash, families will socialize with friends to discuss their hope of the New Year. The adults will share a drink of tella which is traditional Ethiopian beer while children will go out and spend the money they received as a gift earlier in the day.

For Ethiopians living in the U.S., there are restaurants across the country that organize a Enkutatash celebration to make people feel closer to home with traditional food and entertainment. Most people will get together with friends and family on the weekends but plenty will still take part in a celebration on September 11th.

Enkutatash Events in the U.S.

New Year Celebration at Tsion Cafe and Bakery (New York, NY)
September 8, 2018
11 pm - 3 am
Click here for more information

17th Annual Little Ethiopia Cultural Street Festival (Los Angeles, CA)
September 9, 2018
12 pm - 8 pm
Click here for more information

Lesaac Ethiopian Restaurant Celebration (Silver Spring, MD)
September 11, 2018
1 pm - 10 pm
Click here for more information

New Year Celebration at Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant (Alexandria, VA)
September 13, 2018
8 pm - 11:30 pm
Click here for more information

Traditional Ethiopian Recipes

And finally, Enkutatash wouldn’t be complete without a couple traditional recipes. Enjoy!

Ethiopian Defo Dabo
Click here for recipe

Doro Wat

Amharic Version

English Version

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