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Semir Worku | Ethiopia | January 5

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Enkutatash - Ethiopian New Year

The Ethiopian New YearThe Ethiopian New Year falls in September at the end of the big rains. The sun comes out to shine all day long creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity and fresh clean air. The highlands turn to gold as the Meskel daisies burst out in their entire splendor. Ethiopian children clad in brand new clothes dance through the villages giving bouquets of flowers and painted pictures to each household.

September 11th 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 the green countryside. After dark on New Year's Eve, people light fires outside their houses.

Best place to witness this festival

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, hymns, sermons and massive colorful processions mark the advent of the New Year. Closer to Addis Ababa, the Raguel Church—on top of the Entoto Mountain north of the city—has the largest and most spectacular religious celebration. Enkutatash is not, however, exclusively a religious holiday as you can witness little girls singing and dancing in pretty new dresses among the flowers in the fields, conveying the message of springtime and renewed life. Today's Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal New Year greetings and cards among the urban sophisticated in lieu of the traditional bouquet of flowers.

 
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