By Tesfu Telahoun Abebe – One of the defining cultural aspects which distinguish Ethiopia from most other nations is its Coptic-Julian calendar. A solar calendar having 12 months of 30 days and a thirteenth month of 5/6 days, it differs by invariably adding a leap day every four years.
This ‘Ethiopic’ calendar is set as of the much debated date of the Annunciation (incarnation) of Jesus, which according to Alexandrian monk Ananias occurred on March 25, AD 9. Therefore the civil Year began seven months prior on August 29, AD 8. Europe chose to go with the calculations of Dionysius Exiguous who determined the Annunciation took place some 8 years prior to Ananias’ date.
It is this disparity which automatically makes you 8 years younger the moment you set foot in Ethiopia!
We are coming out of a cold and moody winter, the countryside is a lush green, our rivers and lakes are brimming and in a couple of days, the green carpeted fields and mountainsides will be adorned with fiery yellow ‘Adey Abeba’, daisies.
Flowering briefly for a few weeks before and after Ethiopian New Year, the dainty daisies are symbolic representations of Mother Nature completing one cycle of life and beginning of a new one. The new year is so highly regarded that we refer to the holiday as ‘Re’esse Awed-Amet’: literally-the head (chief) of the holidays of the year.
It is a time of thanksgiving and hope and has become a cross-cultural celebration by the diverse communities of our ancient nation. It takes a lot to disenchant an Ethiopian. We are a long suffering people who possess an irrepressible optimism even in the darkest of times.
It is this unbreakable spirit that has seen us through countless natural calamities, invasions, strife and indeed, the ruthless persecution of a long series of odious regimes.
However, recent events have started to test and weaken this admirable tenacity and resilience. Come September 12, few Ethiopians will miss the last 366 days which made up the 13 months of the year 2011, according to Ethiopia’s Julian-based calendar.
Strangely enough, for a truly awful year, the days flashed by so quickly one would think it had been a tolerable and somewhat enjoyable period.
It was nothing such. In fact, in stark contrast to the euphoric national atmosphere when we ushered in 2011, this upcoming Ethiopian New Year is being expected warily and with trepidation by what I surmise is a majority of the population-that is, the peace loving majority.
We are anxiously observing how the increasingly intractable socio-political discord will play out. To make matters worse, the current leadership, its estranged elements, anti-unity groupings and others are determined to hold the general elections on schedule-and damn the consequences.
There is also a very real fear that repression, deceit, tribal supremacy entitlements and other defining features of Ethiopia’s dysfunctional socio-political construct will or are returning. Alas, the dog has gone back to begin licking up the former contents of an upset stomach..
One of my favorite quotations comes from an anonymous sage who said;”It is sadder to find the past AGAIN and find it inadequate for the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.”
Another seer has added;”Tomorrow, you promise yourself, will be different, yet, tomorrow is too often a repetition of today”
I fervently pray that we prove both of the above quotations wrong. The new Year will undoubtedly be Ethiopia’s make-or-break year. I do wish we can not only save this our one and only homeland but even take forward by snatching it away from the salivating fangs of the monster that is tribalism. Have a blessed, prosperous and above all, a unifying new year.