Ethiopian Calendar

Ethiopia has its own unique calendar which is seven years and nine months and 10 days behind the calendar that is used in most of the rest of the world.

BD.UhraKidaneMehret9.JPG This calendar, the Ethiopian calendar is often called the Julian Calendar, but this is incorrect. It has 12 months of 30 days with 5 or 6 ‘epagomenal days’ at the end of the year, which gives rise to the common description of it as a 13th month. The 13th month is known locally as ‘Pagumay’.

The calendar used in Europe and most of the rest of the world is a 12 month calendar, which counts the years since the birth of Christ. It is known as the Gregorian Calendar named after Pope Gregory XIII and replaced the previous Julian Calendar introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar in in order to correct a small gain in time, at the same time readjusting the calendar to its correct position.

The major difference with these calendars is that in the Julian Calendar the leap year is every 4 years, while in the Gregorian Calendar (GC) the leap year comes every 4 years except for 3 century years in 400 years (thus future days omitted will be some of the century years – specifically: 29 February 2100, 2200, 2300; 2500, 2600, 2700; 2900, etc.).

IMG_4407.JPG The Ethiopian Calendar is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which also has twelve months of 30 days each plus five or six epagomenal days and is based on the even older Ancient Egyptian calendar. The ancient Egyptian calendar celebrated the new year at the time of the inundation of the Nile. The vast majority of water that floods down the Nile comes from the Ethiopian Highlands. So it is fitting that Ethiopia now uses this calendar.  Over the centuries the date of the new year has moved forward from some time in August to its current date in September.

This is because like the Julian Calendar, the Ethiopian Calendar adds a leap day every four years without exception the century exceptions. Thus it gains a day 3 times in 400 years!

Currently the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Meskerem, for years between 1901 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually 11th September (GC), but falls on 12th September (GC), in the Ethiopian Calendar leap year which comes before the Gregorian leap year. The leap day in the EC falls on 12 September, and leaves all dates out by a day until the GC leap day on 29 February.


Cal-2005-EC-promo.jpg The Tesfa Ethiopian Calendar has been produced since the Ethiopian Millennium year. It is a unique calendar which shows the Ethiopian dates, festivals and holidays on top of the Gregorian dates that we all commonly use. Its a great help for non-Ethiopians to understand the Ethiopian Calendar and show cases pictures that illustrate the beauty of the Tesfa treks.   [PHOTO of Calendar]

With this calendar anyone will be able to see when the church is celebrating its saints’ days and when the other festivals are that are generally unknown to the outside world, such as Sebarea Tsemu Giyorgis, a festival in late January that commemorates the day that St Georges bones where ground to dust! This is a colourful day at any St Georges (Giyorgis) church, but especially around Lalibela and Wollo.

cal-pages-2005-promo.jpg The Tesfa Calendar runs from September to August which approximately conforms to the Ethiopian year. Copies are available to those who support the Tesfa Community Tourism with a small donation, and is available from Tesfa Tours office.

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