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September: the grand month for Ethiopia. New Year and the Finding of the True Cross

Three smells remind me of September in Ethiopia: the mouthwatering one of fresh difo bread, the scent of the yellow flowers called Adey Abeba and the smoky smell of burning cibbo sticks.

September is indeed a grand month in Ethiopia as it hosts two big festivities: New Year and the Finding of the True Cross.

Wondering why I am talking about New Year in September? Not to worry, will soon explain. The Ethiopian New Year falls on the 11th of September (12th on leap years). What more? Ethiopia is now in year 2013! That is because Ethiopia continued using the Julian Calendar, which the Western World stopped adhering to in 1582.

13 months of Sunshine

“13 months of Sunshine” is also a slogan linked to the country. Indeed, the Ethiopian Calendar has thirteen months, the first twelve are of 30 days each. The 13th month, which is called Pagume, is made up of only five days. Those five days are used to leave the old year behind and cleanse oneself for the New Year.

As a young girl, I remember Pagume, particularly for the holy water showers. I remember when mom would take us to church for the Pagume cleansing. It is tradition indeed, that Orthodox believers go to church every morning of Pagume to receive the holy water.

Eve's Chibbo fire ceremony

I also remember the hustle on New Year’s Eve. I loved it. Women were busy cooking the traditional bread, which can be difo dabbo or hambascia according to the region. Men were busy building the chibbo, which is a pyramid made of light wooden torches to make fire in the evening.

My favorite part was the chibbo ceremony which is held in the evening. Everyone gathers around the chibbo to sing traditional New Year songs. The ceremony continues until the fire is about to die. At that point, each person jumps three times over the fire, in a symbolic crossing to a New Year.

New Year's Adey flowers

Early next day, young girls go to collect Adey Abeba flowers, which are yellow flowers which grow towards the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the New Year. Later, they go to the neighbourhood houses and sing Abebayehosc, a traditional song that literally means, “Flower, I have seen you.” They sing and distribute the Adey Abeba flowers to neighbourhood houses. (Watch

In the meanwhile, women would finish cooking the festivity feasts and families will sit down and eat together. Usually, families eat from the same round big tray and give each other gurshas. Gurshas are a sign of affection and they consist in preparing a mouthful of food and placing it into the mouth of someone else at the table.

Meskel, Finding of the True Cross

September is also the month when we celebrate Meskel. Mesqel is a commemoration of the day when the cross where Christ was crucified was found by a mission ordered by Roman Empress Eleni.

I will write about it next Monday, 28 September 2020 which in Ethiopia will be 18 Meskerem 2013. :)

Wish you a great weekend!

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25 de set. de 2020

What a great and nostalgic description of the Ethiopian new year. Brings back great memories. Nice blog debut. Can't wait to read the next one! Am honoured to be the first to comment on your blog.

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