Ethiopia and Eritrea celebrate the beginning of 2013

September 11th marks New Year’s Day according to the Ethiopian calendar

 A procession on the eve of the Ethiopian new year, in the city of Mekele.  Photograph:  Eduardo Soteras / AFP

A procession on the eve of the Ethiopian new year, in the city of Mekele. Photograph: Eduardo Soteras / AFP


Ethiopians and Eritreans celebrated New Year’s Day on Friday, marking the beginning of the year 2013 in their calendar.

In Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language, the day is called Enkutatash, meaning “the gift of jewels”. It happens on September 11th each year, or on September 12th in a leap year. Families gather to pray, sing, exchange gifts, and eat traditional food. The evening before, some people jump over fires in an attempt to guarantee good luck, though celebrations have been muted this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ethiopian calendar is similar to the Julian calendar, rather than the Gregorian calendar, which most of the rest of the world uses. It has 13 months – 12 of them with 30 days and one with either five or six days.

Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, tweeted saying he spent Friday morning visiting young people with mental disabilities, before having lunch with “the elderly, persons with disabilities and homeless children and youth of our city”.

“In 2013, I call on all Ethiopians to care for the most vulnerable sections of our societies,” said Mr Abiy, who won the Nobel Prize last year for introducing reforms at home, as well as agreeing a peace deal with Isaias Afwerki, the president of neighbouring Eritrea.

Ethiopia is the second most populous African nation, with more than 109 million people. Eritrea has roughly five million people, and has been one of the most isolated dictatorships in the world for decades.


Eritreans have made up a significant proportion of the refugees arriving in Europe over the past 10 years. By the end of 2018, more than half a million Eritreans fled home, according to the UN – escaping gross human rights abuses and a system of national service that has been compared to slavery by international bodies.

This meant Eritreans were celebrating the new year across the world, with its diaspora using Facebook to send each other good wishes, along with photos of yellow flowers and corn, signifying luck for the future and an impending harvest.

Eritrean refugees in a camp in Rwanda told The Irish Times they had pooled money to buy 40 goats, which they will cook and share between hundreds of people, while Eritreans in Sweden sent photos of a party with cakes and wine.

Others, locked in migrant detention centres in Libya, said they are hoping this year will be better than the last one.

Inside Eritrea, more than 20 prisoners of faith were released on bail this week. Some spent up to 16 years locked up because of their religion, according to activists, who say only four religions are allowed there: Christian Orthodox, Lutheran Church, Catholic Church and Sunni Islam.

There are at least 1,200 prisoners of faith detained in Eritrea.