The Ethiopian Calendar is the principal calendar that has been used in Ethiopia for centuries. It is also the liturgical calendar for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church. A solar calendar, it has thirteen months and was derived from the Coptic Church calendar. With twelve months of thirty days each, the Ethiopian calendar also has a thirteenth month called Pagume of 5 days, or 6 days during a leap year. Pagume comes from the Greek word “epagomene”, which means days forgotten when a year is calculated.
The Ethiopian calendar dates from the birth of Jesus as calculated by Annianus of Alexandria. The Ethiopian calendar is behind the Gregorian calendar by seven years because of differences in calculation of the date of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus. The computation of important dates in the Ethiopian calendar like Easter day, the three-day fast of Nineveh and other fasting seasons during the year is carried out by the church fathers. The method used to calculate the Ethiopian calendar is Bahere Hasab which means “sea of thoughts” hinting at the complexity of the process of calculation.
The Ethiopian New Year is usually celebrated on September 11 or 12, which is at the end of the rainy season, with a big festival called Enkutatash or “Gift of Jewels.” Further, while most Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, Ethiopians celebrate it on January 7 because of the differences in their calendar from the Gregorian calendar.
By Iyeyinka Kusi-Mensah