Saturday, July 30, 2011

Enkutatash! Ethiopian New Year

The Ethiopian New Year falls in September at the big rains. The sun comes
out to shine .ll day long creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity and fresh
clean air. The highlands turn to gold as the Meskal daisies burst out in all
their splendor. Ethiopian children — clad in brand-new clothes — dance
through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each
Eleventh September (this year being 12 September) is both New Year’s
Day and the Feast of St. 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 green countryside.
After dark on New Year’s Eve people light fires outside their houses. This year
will be a special one as Ethiopia crosses over into a new millennium.
The main religious celebration takes place at the 14th-century Kostete
Yohannes church in the city of Gaynt within the Gondar region. Three days of
prayers, psalms and hymns, sermons, and massive colourful processions mark
the advent of the New Year. Closer to Acidis Ababa, the Raguel Church, on
top of Entoto Mountain north of the city, has the largest and most spectacular
religious celebration. But Enkutatash is not exclusively a religious holiday, and
the little girls singing and dancing in pretty new dresses among the flowers
in the fields convey the message of spring-time and renewed life. Today’s
Enkutatash is also the reason for exchanging formal New Year greetings and
cards among the urban sophisticated — in lieu of the traditional bouquet of

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