What is Enkutatash? And how is it celebrated?

Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year, is a vibrant and joyous holiday celebrated on Meskerem 1st in the Ethiopian calendar. Enkutatash usually falls on September 11th in the Gregorian calendar. This holiday holds great cultural significance for the people of Ethiopia, marking the beginning of a new year and the end of the rainy season. It’s a holiday full of family, food, and the love of community.

The name “Enkutatash” has a beautiful meaning. It translates to “gift of jewels” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. This name reflects the tradition of exchanging good wishes and small gifts among friends and family during the holiday. It’s a time for spreading love and positivity.

Enkutatash is deeply rooted in Ethiopia’s long history. Legend has it that the holiday’s origins date back to the biblical times when Queen Sheba returned from her journey to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. Her return marked a new beginning, and this event is said to have inspired the celebration of the new year.

During the month of September there are many ways communities celebrate Enkutatash. Children gather and sing along the streets and in shops. Kids make crochet gifts for the elders. Paper flowers are made from household scraps and given to neighbors and friends.  Many people dress in traditional white clothing, attend religious ceremonies, and offer prayers of thanksgiving for the blessings of the past year and seek blessings for the year to come. The yellow flower, known as the meskel flower, represents the holiday.

(New Year Flowers. Photo by Hilena Tafesse, used with permission)

Enkutatash is a cultural celebration of renewal and fresh beginnings. Families come together, enjoy delicious feasts featuring traditional dishes like injera (a type of sourdough flatbread)and doro wat (a spicy chicken stew), and dance to the rhythmic beats of traditional Ethiopian music. There is singing, prayer, and family togetherness.

(Delicious doro wot)

The holiday also emphasizes the importance of unity and community. Friends and family visit each other’s homes, exchange New Year’s greetings, and offer small gifts like flowers. Community is celebrated and the bonds of neighbors are affirmed when there is a visit and a shared meal.

Enkutatash is a cherished holiday that embraces and celebrates the cultural heritage of Ethiopia. It’s a time of reflection, gratitude, and hope for the future. The long-standing traditions and sweet celebrations make Enkutatash a unique and awaited holiday every year.

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