melkam addis amet

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)!

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7 Responses to melkam addis amet

  1. CatherineD says:

    Happy New Year to you, too! That is so interesting. Isn't it fun that not only are we adding new little people to our families, but we are also absorbing these wonderful new cultures! You'll have to be sure to share any good Ethiopian recipes you happen upon. Brian and I LOVE Ethiopian food!

  2. Kelly says:

    Thanks for telling me this! I had no idea. It's so fun to learn new things about other cultures. Interesting that their new year lands on Sept. 11th this year. A strange juxtaposition, but perhaps appropos – new beginnings is a positive way to look at the tragedy of Sept. 11th.

  3. Elizabeth Frick says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this – I am ashamed to admit I know so little about Ethiopia and I am grateful for you enlightening me!

  4. E says:

    That is interesting. I love to learn about different cultures.

  5. Christine says:

    That's really cool. I know very little about Ethiopia (and their traditions and culture). So this was really interesting to me… and a touch ironic this year.

  6. Zoe says:

    I mentioned this, too, on my blog. I remember one year ago when we started considering Ethiopia that they had just finished their millennial year. It's pretty neat they have a different calendar, but also makes for some confusion!

  7. E says:

    So interesting…a date marking a festive occasion in one culture that is known as a very sad and tragic date in another. I can't believe it's been 8 years either and how much it still breaks my heart when I think about it.

    What a great idea to start your own tradition of celebrating the Ethiopian new year! It sounds like an annual bonfire would be called for!

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