Learn about celebrating the new year in Ethiopia! The Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash, marks the end of the rainy season and welcomes sunny days.
While September marks the beginning of Autumn in the U.S., the Ethiopian New Year — or “Enkutatash” — marks the approximate end of the long rainy season in Ethiopia and the new season of sunny days and warmer weather. It typically falls on September 11th of each year.
“It is a time for blooming flowers, clear skies and moving on to better days,” Holt’s staff in Ethiopia says of the season following Enkutatash.
Enkutatash means the “gift of jewels” in Amharic, and according to legend, the Queen of Sheba returned from her famous visit to King Solomon of Jerusalem some 3,000 years ago with jewels gifted by her host. Her return to Ethiopia after receiving this gift coincided with the New Year celebration in September, and hence the name Enkutatash came to be. Although a secular holiday celebrated by everyone in Ethiopia, Enkutatash also held religious significance to early Ethiopian Christians as September is believed by some to be the month that God created the earth in the Bible.
Celebrations are usually focused on family events and tend to last a week or more. Much like in the U.S., the holiday starts on New Year’s Eve, which begins with church services followed by a big family feast. At night, households come together to light wooden torches and bonfires, which symbolize the coming of the new season of sunshine. “The feasts are magnificent with endless food and drinks,” our staff shares. One of Ethiopia’s most popular dishes, a chicken stew called “doro wot,” is the highlight of the menu. Coffee is traditionally served after the extensive holiday feast is over, and long, freshly cut green grass called “ketema” is spread on the floor.
During this family celebration, children also play a special role. Groups of young Ethiopian girls typically perform a song called “Abebayehosh” for their friends, family and neighbors, and offer blessings and good wishes for the year to come. As a token of appreciation, people usually respond with money or bread prepared for the holidays. Boys paint pictures and give them as gifts to their family and neighbors.
Through their generous monthly gifts, sponsors help cover basic needs and allow for time away to play and celebrate meaningful holidays like Enkutatash— whether their sponsored child lives with their family or caregivers, in Ethiopia, China or another country where Holt works. We are grateful for the heartfelt dedication of our Holt child sponsors!
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