Ethiopian New Year
The Ethiopian New Year falls in September 11 or 12 in a leap year at the end of the big rains season. The sun comes out to shine all day long creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity and fresh clean air. The highlands turn to gold as the Meskel daisies burst out in all their splendors. Ethiopian children clad in brand new clothes dance through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each household.
September 11th is both New Year’s Day and the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. The day is called Enkutatash meaning 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 back by replenishing her treasury with Enku or Jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since these early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside, after dark on New Year’s Eve people light bonfires outside their houses.
Falls on November 30th, the festival, that is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over Ethiopia, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Axum, the “sacred city of the Ethiopians”. As the Virgin is one of the most venerated of all religious figures in Ethiopia, about 33 days are annually dedicated to different celebrations in the commemoration of Saint Mary. “Hidar Mariam Zion” is associated with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum and the belief that the Ark itself is a symbolism to her womb.