Festivals and Events


Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 or 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind between September 11 and January 8.

Enkutatash means the "gift of jewels". When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with enku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early time and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside.

But Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday. Today's Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated - in lieu or the traditional bouquet of flowers.

Ethiopia had a seasonal flower named “Adey Abaeba”; which flourish in most country side during the month of September as the country welcome the new year with a new spirit in a collaboration of nature presenting this seasonal flower.

Enkutatash is celebrated everywhere in Ethiopia, but it is nice in the capital Addis with new year eve ceremonies at different hotels.

Finding of the True Cross (Meskal)
Meskal has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. “Meskel” mean cross and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena (mother of Constantine the Great). The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD, but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.

Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal: tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies popularly called Meskal Flowers are placed at the top. During the night those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited - This symbolizes the actions of the Empress, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three roses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.

Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 - 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.

During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called "Chibo" are used to light the bundle called "Demera".

Meskel is celebrated nicely in Addus Ababa with a wonderful ceremony on the Eve.

Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)
Christmas, called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on 7 January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the nightin the eve, with people moving from one church to another. The chiristmas eve overnight church ceremony is harmonious especially in Lalibela.

Christmas is also celebrated traditionally throughout the country: young men played a game similar to hockey called “genna chewata” on this holyday, and now Christmas is known as Gena after the name of the game.

Epiphany (Timket)
Timket, feast of Epiphany is the greatest festival of the year falling on the 19 January just two weeks after the Ethiopian Christmas. It is actually a three-day affair beginning on the eve of Timket with dramatic and colorful processions. The following morning the great day itself, Christ's baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist is commemorated. Since October and the end of the rains, the country has been drying up steadily. The sun blazes down from a clear blue sky and the festival of Timket always take place in glorious weather. Timket is celebrated everywhere in Ethiopia, but it gets its climax in Addis Ababa and Gondar as peoples from different places will gather for the festivel.

Easter (Fasika)
Fasika is celebrated in between end of April and beginning of May. It varies every year. It is the celebration of Jesus Christ reserection. Christians all over the world: celebrating it as Easter holiday. Eve of Fasika is celebrated at every Ethiopian Orthodox church with mass and chanting.