History of Ethiopian New Year: What is Enkutatash?


Why is your friendly neighborhood historian writing about the Ethiopian New Year? A couple of years ago, the Washington Post interviewed me for an article they were publishing on the subject. The Washington D.C. area has over 200,000 Ethiopian-Americans who celebrate the holiday this year on September 12.

A group of local Ethiopian activists and businessmen want to make the day known as Enkutatash in Ethi­o­pia, a part of the American roster of holidays, in a very similar way to St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. For example, Columbus Day was popularized out of Denver, CO, back in the mid-19th century to promote Italian culture.


Meaning of Enkutatash

Enkutatash is the name for the Ethiopian New Year and means “gift of jewels” in the Amharic language. The story goes back almost 3,000 years to the Queen of Sheba of ancient Ethiopia and Yemen, who was returning from a trip to visit King Solomon of Israel in Jerusalem, as mentioned in the Bible in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9. She had gifted Solomon with 120 talents of gold (4.5 tons) and many unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia, her chiefs welcomed her with enku or jewels to replenish her treasury.


Celebration of Enkutatash

The celebration is both religious and secular. Typically this is the end of the long rainy season, and the countryside is covered with yellow daisies. The day begins with church services, followed by the family meal. Young children will receive small gifts of money or bread after the girls gather flowers and sing, and the boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends, and adults drink Ethiopian beer.


Date for Enkutatash

Ethiopia mapThe Ethiopian calendar is a unique form of the Coptic or Alexandrian calendar, derived from the earlier Egyptian calendar, influencing the Julian calendar. On September 12, 2007, Ethiopia celebrated its bi-millennial or 2,000 years from the Annunciation of Christ. Why is their calendar 7-8 years different from the West’s Gregorian calendar?

In the West, the calendar was calculated around A.D. 525 by Dionysius Exiguus, a Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer who based his calculations for the birth of Christ on an erroneous date for the death of Herod the Great. In the East, an Alexandrian monk named Panodorus (or Annias) did his calculations differently around A.D. 400 for the Egyptian calendar.


Modern Day Enkutatash

As I mentioned in the article for the Washington Post, the availability of modern social media and Internet resources makes promoting this ethnic and cultural holiday more visible for this Diaspora of African and Caribbean peoples. Kickstarted by the Ethiopian African Millennium Group in 2007, this effort to promote the holiday was sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Company and the African-American Civil War Museum as 30,000 people came to the Washington Monument. Other major American cities like San Jose and Seattle also celebrate Enkutatash.


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

If you enjoyed this article, please consider leaving a comment.
Subscribe to have future articles delivered to your email.

About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.


  1. Tsegaye Y on September 9, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Yes you are good writer but you failed to acknowledge “ancient Ethiopia” starch from Nubia(northern Sudan ) to Current Yemen. And queen Saba come to power also from north part Ethiopia. Funny history we were that much big. we were big and we will be big again with God will.

    • Bill Petro on September 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks for the comments. Some of my readers don’t even know where modern Ethiopia is. This is why I put a map in the article.

      I also didn’t mention the Ethiopian official referenced in the New Testament during the early church in Acts 8:27.


      • Alexandre Lima Will on June 29, 2015 at 12:50 am

        what do you mean when you write modern etiopia? you are saying that before she was different? (most (more land) or located in another area?)

        • Bill Petro on July 4, 2015 at 6:39 pm

          By “modern” I mean contemporary, the Ethopia of today in contrast to it’s history of 3,000 years ago.


        • Kebso Guluma on September 12, 2022 at 6:03 am

          Thanks for teaching us.

  2. yohanna on September 7, 2014 at 3:32 am


  3. Heaven on October 1, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    this is so helpful on my report thxs!!!!!

  4. andenet on December 31, 2014 at 5:58 am

    you have write well! from what you said it looks like our calender is derived from egyptions….but from our anciesters we know that we have our own calender, if it was derived from ethiopians why the difference

    you make it sound like we dont have our own…..but we had and we do!!!

    • Bill Petro on January 1, 2015 at 4:45 pm

      The Egyptian calendar predates the Coptic calendar which was before the current Ethiopiaan calendar. The Egyptian calendar is also earlier than the Western world’s Julian and Gregorian calendars.


  5. maghy on September 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    very nice and interesting history..Very thankful for having studied one of the most beautiful event in Ethiopia..There are such a lot of beautiful chnants related to the New Year / Enky Tatatsh coincides also to the coptik Saint John- festivity and christians renewed their baptisim date as well

  6. Dr. Jaffer Shiffa on September 12, 2015 at 3:10 am

    What a fallacy!
    Enkutatash has nothing to do with those fairy tales. Truly Enkutatash is about blossom of the land which is clearly evidenced by a mass of flower that jewels in the landscape of the country at the entrance of Ethiopian/Kush New year.

  7. yitay on September 8, 2016 at 9:45 am

    ,That is you are a scholar or aprofeshn because you put all the Ethiopian New year history thank you we have so many culture,beliefs ,nations and nationality so on jest like that share it for other world.

  8. Yoseph on September 11, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Good article, but it did not adequately explain why there is a difference of 7/8 years between the Ethiopian calendar and the Gregorian calendar.

    • Bill Petro on September 15, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      Two different calendar calculations done by the Western and Eastern parts of the Roman Empire. In the West, the calendar was calculated around A.D. 525 by Dionysius Exeguus a Roman monk-mathematician-astronomer who based his calculations for the birth of Christ on an erroneous date for the death of Herod the Great. In the East, an Alexandrian monk named Panodorus did his calculations differently back around A.D. 400 for the Egyptian calendar.

  9. jojo on September 15, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Do you know we, Ethiopians, have 13 month? The 13th month has 5 days and 6 days in every 4year. I hope Starbucks recognize this very well.fyi

    • billpetro on September 4, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Yes, twelve months of 30 days plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. Thanks for the comment jojo.

  10. RW on August 30, 2017 at 3:19 am

    thanks for your article. I think what Dr. Jaffer said about Enqutatashi is also shared by many Ethiopians. I would also like to know your sources for your version. Please do not qoute me that I am not saying your version is wrong. The problem here in Ethiopia and Africa, most of our histories are not recorded and documents. Most of them are transfered from generation to generation orally.

    Anyway do you have any idea why September 11 or 12 is chosen as a satrt of a new year ? any specific reason? why not September 27? It shame to ask a foreigner about my cuture and history but has no harm.

    thank you.

    • billpetro on September 4, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      I’m sure that having the hillsides “jeweled” with yellow daisies is a visible and perennial reminder of the beauty of Ethiopia. What Dr. Jaffer Shiffa does not say is how he knows the history recounted here is incorrect. Any web search will confirm my account. As to the date of Sept 11/12, it has to do with an alternative calendar calculation of the date of the Annunciation of Mary.

      Indeed, Ethiopian folklore recounts that red dates, so prized during these holidays, were a favorite of Mary. She was sitting under a date palm and took a bite out of a red date and broke a piece of her tooth off. Children consume one date after another in search of the Virgin Mary’s missing tooth.

  11. Bahran on September 7, 2017 at 5:47 am

    GOOD ARTICLE. I heard once in 600 years the 13th month” Pwagme” will have 7 days.

  12. Sam Fouad on September 13, 2017 at 7:41 am

    I highly appreciate your subject and details about the Ethiopian New Year and the calendar they apply such information was very interesting .
    I always wondered why they had a seven to eight years in the calendar and in age, as this situation seems to influence the age as the date of birth ,year wise is according to their calendar .
    I wish to know more , why our new year is on the 1st of January and their’s on 11th of september although due to their location it is spring now.
    Thank you once more and wish more people will profit of your lessons

    • billpetro on September 15, 2017 at 11:05 am


      Thanks for the comments. I discuss their calendar in the article, but why does our calendar year start on January 1? Thank the ancient Roman Senate and Julius Caesar for that. I explain it in some detail in my article here: https://billpetro.com/history-of-new-years-day


  13. sisay on May 4, 2019 at 1:07 am

    really thanks bill for your meaningful article

  14. Eric Swanson on September 12, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Good post Bill

  15. George Good on October 1, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    Interesting that the Pharocracy chose September 11th to do their deeds…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.