It may be July 2020 for the rest of the world, but for this country , they are in the month of Hamle 2012. This article aims at giving an exposition on the country's calender and why it is still being used up till now.
Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world to have a different calendar. Before we go into the Ethiopian calendar, here are some few amazing facts about this beautiful ancient nation.
- Ethiopia is one of the few African countries that were never colonized. The Ancient Ethiopian army was so strong that they repelled all external aggression, though the Italians occupied it for at least five years.
- Ethiopia is the second most-populous country in Africa (after Nigeria), with a population of over 90 million people by 2015.
- There are over 80 different languages spoken in the country. The most widely spoken local languages include the Oromo, Somali, Amharic, and Tigrinya Languages.
- It is said that the Ark of the Covenant which holds the 10 Commandments is currently in a church in Ethiopia. It is also said that only one man can tell how true this is, and he is the only one who guards it.
- Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia, in Kaffa region.
- Ethiopia has a distinct alphabet system.
- The oldest human fossil (of the Early man) was discovered in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Calendar
One's first travel to Ethiopia would feel like taking a trip back in time. Right at the moment you first set foot in the country, you can’t help but have your attention captured by the fact that Ethiopia has a distinct calendar. The Ethiopian Calendar is seven and half years behind the rest of the world.
The Ethiopian calendar is connected to a lot of Biblical anecdotes . This could be seen in the naming of the weekdays and as well, the 12 months of the year. A typical instance would be the first day of the week called Ehud, which translates as ‘the first day‘ in the ancient Ge’ez language. The Ge'ez language is the liturgical language of the Ethiopian church. This is meant to signify that Ehud is the first day on which God started creating the heavens and the earth.
The Ethiopians call the method used in calculating the calendar " Bahere Hasab" , or ‘sea of thoughts’. The calendar system starts with the idea that Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden for seven years before they were sent away for the sin they committed.
Both the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars make use of the birth date of Jesus Christ as an initial point for their calculations. There are differences between the two calendars because alternate calculations are used in determining there dates. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is of the belief that Jesus Christ was born in 7 BC, 5,500 years after God’s promise to Adam and Eve.
The birth of the Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar was made in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. He made some changes to the previously used Julian calendar. Several countries that were under the dominion of the Catholic church had to accept the Gregorian calendar, which is named after the pope who first introduced it. At the time, many countries opposed the new system, which ordered them to drop 11 days from their Julian calendar. London residents took to the streets to protest the new calendar, holding banners that demanded, ‘give us back our 11 days’. The country refused to accept the Gregorian calendar until 1752; the Soviet Union was also a holdout until 1918, when it accepted the new calendar under the influence of its communist leaders, while Greece refused to switch until 1923.
Ethiopia, a country free of any colonial powers and influences of the Roman church, was not affected by the tides, and easily retained its original calendar, which claims that Jesus was born in 7 BC, and started counting days from that year on. Other calendars held that he was born in AD 1. The difference in the calendar that Ethiopia follows happened from this day forward, which is why the country’s calendar is seven to eight years behind.
The days of the month in the Ethiopian calendar
The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months in a year, 12 of which have 30 days. The last month, called Pagume, has five days, and six days in a leap year. In contrast, the Gregorian calendar has days that can be less or more than 30 days in a month. Some differences were the result of kings adding extra days on the months bearing their names in their honour in the Julian Calendar, such as July and August, which were named after Julius Caesar and Augustus and have 31 days each.
The Ethiopian Calendar’s four-year leap-year cycle is associated with the four evangelists of the Bible. The first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named the John year, and is followed by the Matthew year and then the Mark year. The year with the 6th epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke year.
How many months are in the calendar?
Pagume, the 13th month in the Ethiopian calendar, comes from the Greek word epagomene, which means ‘days forgotten when a year is calculated’. This month has five days or six days in a leap year. According to the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 365 days, six hours, two minutes and 24 seconds. Once every four years, the six hours add up to 24 hours and become the sixth day in a leap year. Once in 600 years, the two minutes and 24 seconds add up to a full day and form a seventh day, which the Ethiopians call rena mealt and rena lelit.
Every 600 years, a unique star called Aqede comes out and shadows the sun, causing a total solar eclipse. As narrated by ancient Ethiopian books, Ethiopian elites knew long before modern-day scientists about solar eclipses, and predicted when it would take place.
Ethiopia’s calendar today
Modern-day Ethiopia still embraces its ancient calendar. However, travellers hardly experience any inconveniences because of the calendar difference. Most Ethiopians are aware of the Gregorian calendar and some even use both calendars interchangeably.
As one of the few countries in the world with its own calendar system, Ethiopia celebrates important holidays on days that are different from the rest of the world. For instance, Ethiopia celebrates the New Year on September 11, and not on January 1. The calendar offers foreign travellers the perfect excuse to hold two different celebrations for New Year’s and Christmas.
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