September 11th is of course a very sad day in the United States. We will always remember where we were and what we were doing on this day back in 2001, and we will always be shocked and outraged when we think of the sheer number of lives lost that day and since then in the resulting wars. I’ve remembered and I’ve shed a few tears today. I can’t believe it has been 8 years. At times it seems like it was yesterday.
September 11, however, also marks the beginning of a new year in Ethiopia. One of the many interesting things I have learned about Ethiopia in the last several months is that it follows the Julian calendar. This calendar consists of 12 30-day months plus a 5-day 13th month (6-day in leap years). Over time this has added up to what is now a 7- to 8-year difference in calendars. So, today, September 11, 2009 in the US, is actually the first day of 2002 in Ethiopia. The new year holiday is known as Enkutatash.
We don’t have any new year celebrations planned this year, but I hope to start a tradition of celebrating the Ethiopian new year in the future. I’ve learned that the customs include early morning religious ceremonies, traditional dress, and luncheons of injera (traditional flat, sour bread) and wot (stew). The celebrations on the night before the new year include burning fires of dry leaves and bundled wood in front of homes (I’m thinking this will equate to a bonfire of sorts in our backyard!) accompanied by singing and dancing. It is traditional to exchange bouquets of flowers, but many people today apparently exchange greeting cards like we do around the holidays in the US.
So, on September 11th, while we recognize and remember the tragic events that we will always know this date by, I also say, Melkam Addis Amet (Happy New Year)!