Ethiopian Calendar - 13 Month Calendar

You might have heard of the proverb describing Ethiopia as the 13 Months of Sunshine. 13 months! How is that possible?

This is simply because Ethiopia follows its own calendar, influenced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The Ethiopian Calendar is different and earlier by seven to eight years from the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian New Year is also celebrated at a day lying several months before the Gregorian calendar New Year. I will discuss about this in detail further on in this article.

The Ethiopian calendar consists of 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days or 6 days in a leap year (every four years). The Ethiopian calendar year is eight years behind the Gregorian calendar year from January 1 up to September 10 or 11 and seven years behind for the remaining of the Gregorian calendar year.

Ethiopian Calendar History and Origin

Pope Gregory XIII improved the Julian calendar to produce the Gregorian calendar. After the introduction of the Gregorian calendar most parts of the world started adopting the Gregorian calendar one by one, but Ethiopia never did. Ethiopia developed its own calendar based on the beliefs and reasoning of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The main finding that led to the creation of the Ethiopian calendar was the discovery of the date Jesus Christ was born. It was found that Jesus Christ was born after 5500 years after the creation of the earth, which is the base for the Ethiopian calendar. But, the Gregorian calendar was formed with a calculation resulting in a date different than that.

The establishment of the Ethiopian calendar is mainly based on the Holy Bible and what inferences it was made from it. The amount of days that took until Jesus Christ was born starting from the creation of the earth was calculated from the Bible by observing dates mentioned in the scripture and then connecting the dots.

This is what created the difference between the Ethiopian calendar and the Coptic calendar. Accordingly the beginning of the first day in each calendar is different.

But, apart from that the Ethiopian calendar and the Coptic calendar are similar. Both have equal number of months (13 months) in their respective calendar year. All the months in both calendars start at the same day.

To clear up the similarity and difference between the Ethiopian calendar and the Coptic calendar I'm going to follow up with an example. For example, let's choose a day in the Ethiopian calendar, say month 1, day 1, 1994 Ethiopian calendar (E.C.). The corresponding day according to the Coptic calendar is then, month 1, day 1, 1718 Coptic calendar (C.C.).

As you can see the month and day in both calendars is the same, but the calendar year is different.

Although the Ethiopian calendar, the Coptic calendar and the Gregorian calendar differ in some aspects they all have the same number of days in a year - 365 days and 366 days in a leap year.

Ethiopian Calendar and Gregorian Calendar Date Names Derivation

The names of the days in a week of the Ethiopian calendar (days of the week in Amharic , official language of Ethiopia) and the Gregorian calendar have different derivations. The names of the Amharic dates originated from the Ge'ez language, ancient language of Ethiopia and have Christian relations. I learned about the Ge'ez derivations of the names of the Amharic days of the week from an experienced Ethiopian clergyman who can speak and write the Ge'ez language.

On the other hand the names of the English dates were named after pagan gods and goddesses. These pagans worshiped the moon, the sun and some of the planets.

Sunday is derived from "Sun Day" - Sun God and Goddesses. Equivalently እሁድ (Ihud) (the seventh day in a week in Amharic) originated from a Ge'ez word meaning የእግዜር መጀመሪያ እለት (Lord's first day). This was God's day of rest following his creation of the earth.

Monday got its name from "Moon Day" - Moon Goddess, and ሰኞ (Segno) (the first day in a week in Amharic) was named based on a Ge'ez word meaning የእግዜር ሁለተኛ እለት (Lord's second day).

Tuesday originated from "Tiw's Day" - Tiw was a God of War, while ማክሰኞ (Maksegno) (the second day in a week in Amharic) is a derivative of a Ge'ez word meaning የእግዜር ሶስተኛ እለት (Lord's third day).

Wednesday was named from "Woden's Day". The third day in a week in Amharic, እሮብ/ረቡዕ (Irob/Rebu) is the one which originated from a Ge'ez word which meant የእግዜር አራተኛ እለት (Lord's fourth day).

Thursday was named after "Thor's Day" – Thor was a God of Thunder. The Amharic fourth day of a week, ሐሙስ (Hamus) was coined from a Ge'ez word which has the meaning, የእግዜር አምስተኛ እለት (Lord's fifth day).

Friday was developed from "Freya's Day". The fifth day of the week according to the Amharic calendar, አርብ (Arb), was crafted from a Ge'ez word defined as; you guessed it - የእግዜር ስድስተኛ እለት (Lord's sixth day).

Saturday was derived from "Saturn Day". The equivalent Amharic name of the day is ቅዳሜ (Kidamé). Kidamé was born from the word ቀዳሚ (Kedamee).

How Was the First Month of the Ethiopian Calendar declared?

The first month that lies in the Ethiopian calendar is መስከረም (Meskerem). On the first day of this month countries adopting the Gregorian calendar will be on the date, September 11 or September 12 in a leap year. This is the day Ethiopians celebrate their New Year.

Most of the schools around the country will open the day or a few days after the Ethiopian New Year. When you think about starting school right after the New Year makes sense and is consistent. While on the other hand the countries following the Gregorian calendar start school on the same year after the summer.

One of the main reasons why the Ethiopian New Year was set at Meskerem was because when the day came near the weather in Ethiopia starts to change from the cloudy and rainy atmosphere of the summer to a bright and sunny presence. You could also notice the appearance of the yellow flower, አደይ አበባ (Adey Ababa).

Ethiopian Calendar Conversion to Gregorian

As mentioned earlier the Ethiopian Calendar lags some 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar. Meaning Ethiopians celebrated the 2000 millennium eight years after the countries following the Gregorian calendar, most parts of the world, celebrated the millennium.

The Ethiopian Calendar is also composed of 13 months different from the 12 months in the Gregorian calendar, in which the 13th month (Pagumé) lasts 5 days and 6 days in a leap year.

Accordingly the following list consists of Ethiopian dates and the corresponding Gregorian dates in their respective calendar years.

The Ethiopian dates correspond to the first day in each month of the calendar year. In short the list is a conversion of the Ethiopian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

You will be able to refer to this list to conveniently know what month and day is in Ethiopia compared to the dates in the countries adopting Gregorian calendar.

Ethiopian Date-first date in the month (in Amharic) Gregorian Date
መስከረም (Meskerem) (month 1) September 11 (September 12 in a leap year)
ጥቅምት (Tikimt) (month 2) October 11
ህዳር (Hidar) (month 3) November 10
ታህሳስ (Tahisas) (month 4) December 10
ጥር (Tir) (month 5) January 9
የካቲት (Yekateet) (month 6) February 8
መጋቢት (Megabeet) (month 7) March 10
ሚያዚያ (Meeyazeea) (month 8) April 9
ግንቦት (Ginbot) (month 9) May 9
ሰኔ (Sené) (month 10) June 8
ሐምሌ (Hamlé) (month 11) July 8
ነሐሴ (Nehasé) (month 12) August 7
ጳጉሜ (Pagumé) (month 13) September 6

Ethiopian Holiday Calendar (Christian Holidays)

The Ethiopian Christians celebrate the same holidays in the calendar year as any other Christians in other parts of the world.

But, the actual dates in which the holidays are celebrated actually differ from every other country in the world.

What's most interesting is the way Ethiopian Christians celebrate the holidays. Ethiopian Christians celebrate these holy days in a very vibrant, religious and captivating manner. Every year the traditions are kept intact which makes it even more special.

To learn more about these holidays read about them here.

For convenience, I've listed the main Ethiopian Christian holidays celebrated throughout the calendar year and their corresponding dates in the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendar.

Ethiopian Religious Holidays Ethiopian Calendar Gregorian Calendar
እንቁጣጣሽ (Enkutatash) (New Year) መስከረም ፩ (Meskerem 1) September 11 (September 12 in a leap year)
መስቀል (Maskal) (Finding of the True Cross) መስከረም ፩ ፯ (Meskerem 17) September 27
ገና (Genna) (Christmas) ታህሳስ ፪ ፱ (Tahisas 29) January 7
ጥምቀት (Timkat) (Epiphany) ጥር ፩ ፩ (Tir 11) January 19
ፋሲካ (Fasika) (Easter) Variable Variable

Related Pages

Ethiopian Culture