Category Archives: New Year

The Ethiopian New Year & the month Meskeram

Meskal flowers in Meket, North Wollo

September is a wonderful time in Ethiopia and particularly the Ethiopian month of Meskerem that runs from 11th September -10th October marking the beginning of the Ethiopian year. The countryside is lit up with the masses of bright yellow ‘Meskal’ daisies and more sunshine flickering through the rain clouds, and it brings with it all the promise of the new year.

However 2009 ends with that Ethiopian peculiarity, the 13th month or Pagumay. It is generally 5 days long, but on leap years it is 6 days. It works as a fill in with all other months being 30 days and 12 x 30 being 360, so it adds up the year to 365 days. There is one very special day in Pagume– St Rufael’s day which is on 3rd day of the month (8th Sept). If it rains on this day the rain is holy and blesses those it falls on.  A great day for dancing in the rain! St Rufael for those that did not know (and I had to look it up!) is an archangel coming 3rd in rank after St Michael and St Gabriel.

The Demara – the flames of the Meskal fire.

So what are the celebrations for New Year? It is of course not only a national holiday but a feast day and families will celebrate the New year together on the 11th – Enkutetash as the day is called. They will visit and be visited by close friends and relatives.

It is closely followed by Meskal which his celebrated across the country but most especially in parts of the south such as Gurage, Wolaita, and in the north in the town of Adigrat. Across the country bonfires – demara -are erected around a central pole that holds a cross and are decorated with the Meskal flowers. In Addis they are lit on the night before Meskal 26 Sep or Meskeram 16.  The big demara will be in Meskal Square but they are in every neighbourhood, roundabout and street corner. The fire is lit and goes up with much dancing and wielding of sticks and the direction which the cross falls is said to predict the success of that years harvest. Meskal day itself – the 27th is another public holiday, and families will again celebrate with a feast at home.

Stick Dancing in Meket

Meskal (itself means cross) is a ceremony that commemorates the Finding of the True Cross. Legend has it that in 326 AD, Queen Eleni (Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great) was guided by a dream to light a fire and follow the smoke to find the True Cross. The smoke rose high in the sky and descended at the point where she found the Cross. Many think that Meskal marks the end of the rainy season, well not quite, but its true the rains get less frequent, the flowers are in full bloom and the promise of a new harvest is seen around the country. But don’t put away your rain clothes, for the end of the rainy season – as per the old time calendar – is Meskeram 25th, or 5th October.

If you want to know in advance of the holidays coming up and the workings of the Ethiopian calendar then why not pick up a Tesfa Calendar from Tesfa Tours. It starts on 1st Sep 2017 and runs til 31stAug 2018. it has Saints days, fasts, Ethiopian dates and a wealth of other information set into the western calendar, with wonderful photographs from the Tesfa Village treks across the country – which will make you want to get out of Addis and explore this beautiful country.  Please contact or tel 011 124 5178 to get your copy.

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Happy New (Ethiopian) Year

Today is 5/13/2008 in Ethiopia, the fifth of the 13th month 2008! And tomorrow will be the 1/1/2009! This 13th month is Pagumay generally 5 days long, but on leap years it is 6 days.

Meskal flowers in Meket, North Wollo

Meskal flowers in Meket, North Wollo

Many think that New Year marks the end of the rainy season, well not quite, but it does mark the point at which the rains get less frequent, the flowers start to come out and the promise of a new harvest is seen around the country.

This year by a happy coincidence Eid al Adha also falls in the coming days.

So best wishes to everyone for a happy holidays and a peaceful 2009!

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Welcome to 2008

Ethiopia has just moved into 2008, on the 12th September 2015 by most of the world’s calendar.


New Year grass and sticks

For three years in four the Ethiopian New Year comes on 11th September, but 2007 being a leap year there was an extra day popped on the end of the year, thus moving the New Years day to the 12th. The rest of the word has their leap some 5 months later.

So what do you need to celebrate New Year?

Start of with ‘Chubbo’ bundles of sticks that are used for the bonfire on the eve.  Take a bundle of green grass to decorate the floor for the coffee ceremony.  You could decorate the green floor with flowers too.

New Year chickensThere is a lot of preparation to be done too.  Key among them is the ‘doro wot’ – a spicy chicken stew. Better go to the market, and there is one on the corner of most streets for New Year to buy yourself a chicken. Prices have soared, with a chicken costing upwards of $12 USD. You’ll need to get a few eggs too, a real doro wot has boiled eggs in it.

Enjara needs to be baked – the sour dough Ethiopian pancake on which the spicy food is eaten takes quite a lot of work as the liquid dough is prepared a few days in advance to ferment and the enjara is baked one piece at a time. A challenge this year was the frequent power cuts that interrupted the process leaving many still preparing enjara in the early hours of the morning.

Many will also slaughter a sheep, and vast numbers of sheep (and goats) are walked into Addis from ay miles away, by what would have been known as drovers in England’s past. Huge sheep and goat markets appear around the city and in various locations around the town. Prices go upwards from $130 USD depending on the size of the sheep and how close to the holiday.  Some people will group together to share on an ox.

New Year sheep skinsNot a great day for vegetarians! Every street corner bears witness to the numbers of sheep and goats that were slaughtered. Trucks and pickups then collect these skins, part of the trade in skins which is one of Ethiopia’s significant exports.

Ethiopia’s calendar has a number of big festivals at which chickens, sheep, goats and oxen are dispatched in large numbers, but then it also has many fasting periods when all Orthodox butchers close and meat is off the menu. so perhaps it all evens out.

Sheep escape New YearSome of the sheep escaped to hang in there for another day…  So happy new year to all, and may 2008 good one!

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