The month of Meskerem, which marks the beginning of the year according to the Ethiopian calendar, is a month of celebrations and new beginnings for Ethiopia. The Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash, marks the culmination of the long rainy season and the warm welcoming of the harvest and the sunny weather of spring. As the fertile highlands become blanketed in lush greenery and beautiful yellow daisies, people of all ages take place in joyous festivities.
The ancient tradition of celebrating Enkutatash, which is Amharic for “gift of jewels,” can be traced back 3,000 years to the visit of the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba to King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE. According to ancient legends and the bible, the Queen of Sheba, traveled by camel caravan to Jerusalem to meet and test the wisdom of the great king whom she had heard so much about. Upon meeting King Solomon, who is believed to have fathered her son, the first Solomonic Emperor of Ethiopia Menelik I, she confirmed his wisdom and greatness. According to the Bible, “she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon…King Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides from what he had given her out of his royal bounty. She left and returned with her retinue to her own country” (1 Kings 10:10-13). Upon her return to Ethiopia, her chiefs welcomed her with enku (jewels) to replenish her supply of treasures. The “gift of jewels”, or Enkutatash has been celebrated ever since.
As Ethiopia celebrates the beginning of their 2009th year, it is important to remember the ancient history of Enkutatash. Despite the fact that Ethiopia has faced challenges in various times in its history, it has always prevailed with an unparalleled resiliency, and the 3,000 years of celebrating the holiday of Enkutatash is proof. As rains come to an end and the country becomes filled with sunshine, fresh air, and beautiful vegetation, the New Year represents a hopeful fresh start.
Enkuanaderseachew! Wishing Ethiopia peace, success and many blessings in this upcoming year!