Ethiopian Calendar

Ethiopian Calendar

is located in the Horn of Africa, neigh­boring Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Djibouti. It is one of the oldest countries of the world, with diverse ethnicity, languages, cultures, religions, and traditions. was under the rule of monarchs for decades, if not centuries; from 1974 to 1991 it was under military rule. Beginning in
1991, Ethiopia instituted a federal system of government with some forms of democratization. Unlike most nations in Africa, Ethiopia main­tained its independence from colonialism. This nation has its own , and it recently cele­brated the end of the second millennium on September 12, 2007. This date marks New Year’s Day 2000 on the .

The Ethiopian calendar divides the year into 13 months with 12 months of 30 days and one month of 5 or 6 days (see Table 1). The 13th month is an intercalary month called Paguemain; it has 5 days that become 6 days every 4 leap years on a leap year. Ethiopia is known for having a 13-month calendar; it has become part of a slogan to attract tourists: Ethiopia, 13 months of sunshine. The table, adapted from Aberra Molla, presents the names of the months in Amharic and English, and their starting dates in the , including the varia­tions of the starting dates during leap years.

The Ethiopian New Year begins on September 11 of the Gregorian calendar and on September 12 in leap years. The New Year falls in September, right after the end of the rainy season. After 3 months of clouds, fog, cold, and rain, September brings a joyous season of sunshine and blossoming flowers. It also brings the start of the school year for children, with the big feast of the New Year holiday called Enkutatash—the mark of the beginning of the year. Another holiday, Meskel, follows a fortnight later and celebrates the discovery of the True Cross (Meskel). September brings the beauty of greenery and flowers, relief from the darkness of the rainy months, and a fresh start for another year.

The year 2007/2008 in the Gregorian calendar is the year 2000 in the Ethiopian calendar. It marks the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third millennium. The Ethiopian calendar falls behind the Gregorian calendar by 7 or 8 years. The 7 years’ difference ranges from September to December, and it becomes 8 years beginning from January up to August. For exam­ple, the 7-year difference between the two calen­dars in the month of December becomes a difference of 8 years in January after the New Year of the Gregorian calendar, whereas it comes back to 7 years in September again, right after the Ethiopian New Year. This is, as Aberra Molla notes, because of the difference between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church regarding the determination of the date of the creation of the world. According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the world was created 5,500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, it is now 2,000 years since Jesus Christ was born while it is 7,500 years since the creation of the world.

MonthStart Date(During Leap Year)
Meskerem/September11 September(12 September)
Thikimt/October11 October(12 October)
Hidar/November10 November(11 November)
Tahsas/December10 December(11 December)
Tir/January9 January(10 January)
Yekatit/February8 February(9 February)
Megabit/March10 March 
Miazia/April9 April 
Ginbot/May9 May 
Senie/June9 June 
Hamlie/July8 July 
Nehasie/August7 August 
Puagmain—the intercalary month6 September 



Table 1 The Ethiopian calendar versus the Gregorian calendar


The Ethiopian calendar is similar to the . According to Molla, it has its origin in the Coptic Church of Egypt. The difference between the Ethiopian and Coptic calendars is the saints’ days and their observance . According to the Ethiopian calendar, Ethiopian Christmas and Epiphany are celebrated on January 7 and January 19, respectively.

The Ethiopian calendar has 4-year cycles. The years are named after the evangelists Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John. The year is divided into the four seasons of autumn, winter, spring, and summer. The in the Ethiopic calendar has seven days with 24 hours in each day; 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. The days are Ehud (Sunday), Segno (Monday), Maksegno (Tuesday), Rebu (Wednesday), Hamus (Thursday), Arb (Friday), and Kidame (Saturday).

According to the Ethiopic calendar, the day starts with the rising of the sun in the morning and ends at sunset, followed by the beginning of the night. In the morning, the day starts with the first as 1 o’clock (7 a.m. local time) and the day ends at 12 o’clock (6 p.m. local time). The night starts at 1 o’clock (7 p.m. local time) and ends at 12 o’clock at sunrise (6 a.m. local time). The Ethiopic calendar divides the 24 day into even equal hours of 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime. The -count in the Ethiopian calendar indicates the number of hours since the beginning of daytime or nighttime. So, 5 o’clock (11 a.m. local time) is the fifth of daytime, whereas 5 o’clock at night (11 p.m.) is the fifth since the onset of nighttime. Ethiopia is located at 45 degrees longitude, thus midnight in London is 3 a.m. in Ethiopia or the ninth of nighttime. Traditionally, people have understood the day to start in the morning and end at the sunset, with the next day starting with sunrise. The 12 hours in between are nighttime. It appears people conceive of one day as being those 12 hours of daylight. This, however, is not the case with the official version of the day, which is in fact 24 hours of both daytime and nighttime taken together.

Government offices and businesses use both the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars side by side. Some institutions, however, prefer the Gregorian to the Ethiopian calendar. The use of the two cal­endars simultaneously sometimes causes confusion and inconvenience. Confusing the dates, year, and hours of the day of one calendar with the other can have serious consequences. For instance, in higher education institutions where the Gregorian calendar is used for academic schedules, a fresh­man student may confuse the time for an 8 a.m. examination to mean 8 o’clock (2 p.m. local time) and miss the morning examination while waiting for 8 o’clock (2 p.m.) after lunchtime—a very seri­ous problem for the poor freshman student who could receive a failing grade and dismissal from school. The Gregorian calendar is also used for Ethiopia’s interactions with the outside world in commerce and other sectors. The growing trend toward global interdependence seems to mandate wider usage of the Gregorian calendar in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is proud of its traditional calendar and is determined to keep it, while it also attempts to communicate with the rest of the world by embrac­ing the Western calendar.

The 2000 Ethiopian Millennium, which was launched officially on September 12, 2007, was a yearlong celebration. It was recognized by the United Nations and the African Union. The event was attended by signatories and heads of state, with speeches and music performances and a series of special events. Controversy surrounded the celebration, however. Some critics of the gov­ernment oppose extravaganzas while millions of Ethiopians are still suffering from poverty. The government and its supporters, however, argued that the millennium celebration could be a renais­sance to mobilize the people and generate commit­ment and momentum to eradicate poverty and attain development in Ethiopia.

See also Gregorian Calendar;  Measurements of Time

Further Readings

Beckingham, C. F., & Huntingford, G. W. B. (1961).

The Ethiopian calendar. The Prester John of the Indies (Appendix IV). Cambridge, UK: Hackluyt Society.

Molla, A. (1994). The Ethiopic calendar. Retrieved November 8, 2007, from Calender/ethiopic.html

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