binding non-secular celebration according to many holiday – loving Ethiopians of
all believes is ' Enkutatash' (gift of Jewels) or the Ethiopian New year
celebrated on the 11th of September or Meskerem 1st each year. The time
concurs well with the change of season from the dark and heavy rainy months to
the bright and sunny months of spring. The yellow daisies or Meskal flower,
which is said to be endemic to Ethiopia, sprouts all over the highlands and
fields thus adorning the landscape giving it a splendid and panoramic view,
which is envied by surreal painters.
years , however, some political events like the deposition of the late Emperor
Haile Selassie and the 9/11 terrorist acts have to a certain extent
unfortunately stained the color and mood associated with the celebrations of the
New year. This trend has been accentuated by the economic down turn and highly
inflated cost of living since the last few years.
Ethiopian context, 'Enkutatash' or New Year, is equated with the dawn of new
hope and aspirations, change for the better and happiness. These notions depend
very much on the purchasing power of the society.
shopping spree is also part of the celebration. On the eve of the holiday men go
to the animal market where flocks of sheep and goats are abundantly brought for
sale. Livestocks are also made available in greater member at specific stalls.
Holiday loving families get some sort of amusement in touching and assessing
physical conditions before they strike deals on their bargains of prices. Some
people have a tendency of buying fattened rams with massive tails and spiral or
twisted horns that make big bah sounds and roaring voices not to mention colors
of sheep skins. In the same evening torches are lit in every compound with
children singing “Iyo ha Abebaye Mesekerem Tebaye”
baking local bread or 'Diffo' and brewing 'tella' women are the ones responsible
for the purchase of fowls. The cocks with red feather coats, flat crests and
agile eyes are believed to be manifestations of sound and fitness for
slaughter. Acquisition and slaying fowls is the least that the poor can afford
to undertake to celebrate the New Year. Parents incur other costs for schooling
in addition to the holiday expenses.
Can we say
that ' Enkutatash' is a landmark or aspiration? This was a question I posed in a
telephone conversation I had with a woman in Addis Abeba. Her reaction was
“If you want
to call the New Year celebration without fully fledged power supply, buying a
quintal of tef with one thousand and five hundred birr, a kilo of butter with
one hundred and twenty birr, a litre of kerosine around 11birr, a sign of good
hope and aspiration , you may do so. But as far as I am concerned, since the
celebrations of the , ushering in of the Ethiopian millennium, have been
drowning deeper and deeper in to the marshy area of poverty, she said. The
experience we had with cholera and swine flu is not something to be happy about
only God knows what holds the future.
millennium celebrations it is interesting to mention briefly how the Ethiopian
community in Brussels (ECB) had celebrated the special occasions 2 years ago
from 7-9 September 2007. At the 'De Markten hall where over five hundred
Ethiopians had attended. The community had established a special committee
comprising of members from different sectors of the society. The committee had
published an 81 page magazine containing a prelude of a message and the
Ethiopian Millennium and Human Rights, the story of the Ethiopians Calendar,
Pre-Historic Ethiopia, the first Human Being in Ethiopia, Historical Foundation
of Ethiopia the Origin of Coffee, A historical analysis by Prof. Bahiru Zewdie
entitled 'What Did We Dream What did we achieve? Where Are We Heading?
also programs of exhibition, music, conference, a display of traditional
costumes and festivities. This year there was only a low-profile get together
held by some members of the community covering their own costs of dining and
wining. I asked an Ethiopian about his feelings of the Ethiopian New Year. His
reply was strange. “ the natural phenomenon of the coinciding of the occasion of
the New Year celebration with the change of weather or season may be
appreciated. But I feel embarrassed to tell the world that we are 7 years behind
the rest of the world due to an imported Julian calendar. We have our fiscal
year starting on the 7th or 8th of June why not start on the 1st of January and
join the rest of the world? We can maintain the traditional aspect and make a
compromise if we have to “ he was explaining to me vehemently.
I recalled the
time when motorists had to change driving from right to left as of a given date
some decades ago. It was done. The Julian calendar could be the right calendar
or the wrong one, so what? There is no gainsaying in upholding a calendar that
matters little if we have to live by the rules of the Global Economy. When all
our international dealings are dated in accordance with the Gregorian Calendar,
it baffles me why we have to remain behind and do some extra calculation of
conversion to translate dates and facts in to the Ethiopian calendar.
merry making are characteristically Ethiopian ways of celebrating holidays,
secular or not. But when these are not available adequately the mood of holidays
diminishes down to O-level and in fact the occasion brings with it a feeling of
discomfort. The day can be used to visit relatives or friends but there are many
youngsters spend the day boozing while they hang around night clubs dancing.
accident counts are expected to rise under normal circumstances. But the
figures could be low this year indicating that there was not much cause to get
drunk with no good money in the wallet.
Parent , watch
out, the bills are coming!