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The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር ye'Ītyōṗṗyā zemen āḳoṭaṭer) or Ethiopic calendar is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and is also the liturgical year of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church where it is known as the Ge'ez calendar. It is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which is based on the even older Egyptian calendar, but like the Julian calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on August 29 or August 30 in the Julian calendar.
Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of 30 days each plus five or six epagomenal days (usually called a thirteenth month). Furthermore, its months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but they have different names, that are in Ge'ez. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years without exception on August 29 in the Julian calendar, six months before the Julian leap day. Thus the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Mäskäräm, for years between 1901 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually September 11 (Gregorian), but falls on September 12 (Gregorian), in years before the Gregorian leap year.
New Year's Day
Enkutatash is the word for the Ethiopian new year in the official language of Ethiopia: Amharic, while it is called Ri'se Awde Amet (Head Anniversary) in Ge'ez in Eritrea. It occurs on September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for leap years when it occurs on September 12. The Ethiopian calendar year 1998 ˈAmätä Məhrät ("Year of Mercy") began on September 11, 2005. However, the Ethiopian years 1996 and 1992 AM began on September 12 2003 and 1999, respectively.
The new years begin on September 11 or 12 as described above from Gregorian 1900 to 2099, but differently in other Gregorian centuries, because every fourth Ethiopian year is a leap year without exception.
To indicate the year, Ethiopians and followers of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church today use the Incarnation Era, which dates from the Annunciation or Incarnation of Jesus on March 25, 9 (Julian), as calculated by Annianus of Alexandria in c. 400 AD; thus its first civil year began seven months earlier on August 29, 8 (Julian). Meanwhile, Europeans eventually adopted the calculations made by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD instead, which placed the Annunciation exactly eight years earlier than had Annianus. This causes the Ethiopian year number to be eight years less than the Gregorian year number from January 1 until September 10 or 11, then seven years less for the remainder of the Gregorian year.
In the past, a number of other eras for numbering years were also widely used in Ethiopia:
Era of Martyrs
The most important era – once widely used by the Eastern Churches, and still used by the Coptic Church - was the Era of Martyrs, also known as the Diocletian Era, whose first year began on August 29, 284.
Respectively to the western and Julian New Year's Days about three months later, the difference between the Era of Martyrs and the Anni Domini is 285 (= 15x19) years. This is because in AD 525, Dionysius Exiguus decided to add 15 Metonic cycles to the existing 13 Metonic cycles of the Diocletian Era (15x19 + 13x19 = 532) to obtain an entire 532-year medieval Easter cycle, whose first cycle ended with the year Era of Martyrs 247 (= 13x19) equal to year DXXXI. It is also because 532 is the product of the Metonic cycle of 19 years and the Solar cycle of 28 years.
Anno Mundi according to Panodoros
Around 400 AD, an Alexandrine monk called Panodoros fixed the Alexandrian Era (Anno Mundi = in the year of the world), the date of creation, on 29 August 5493 BC. After the 6th century AD, the era was used by Egyptian and Ethiopian chronologists. The twelfth 532-year-cycle of this era began on 29 August 360 AD, and so 4x19 years after the Era of Martyrs.
Anno Mundi according to Anianos
Bishop Anianos preferred the Annunciation style as New Year's Day, the 25 March (see above). Thus he shifted the Panodoros era by about six months, to begin on 25 March 5492 BC.
Leap year cycle
The four year leap-year cycle is associated with the four Evangelists: the first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named in honour of John, followed by the Matthew-year and then the Mark-year. The year with the sixth epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke-year.
There are no exceptions to the four year leap-year cycle, unlike the Gregorian calendar.
|Ge'ez (and Tigrinya, Amharic)||Coptic||Gregorian start date||Start date in year after|
sixth epagomenal day
|Mäskäräm||Tut||September 11||September 12|
|Teqemt||Babah||October 11||October 12|
|Hedar||Hatur||November 10||November 11|
|Tahsas||Kiyahk||December 10||December 11|
|T'er||Tubah||January 9||January 10|
|Yäkatit||Amshir||February 8||February 9|
|Mägabit||Baramhat||March 10||March 10|
|Miyazya||Baramundah||April 9||April 9|
|Genbot||Bashans||May 9||May 9|
|Säne||Ba'unah||June 8||June 8|
|Hamle||Abib||July 8||July 8|
|Nähase||Misra||August 7||August 7|
|Pagumän||Nasi||September 6||September 6|
Note that these dates are valid only from March 1900 to February 2100.
- "The Ethiopian Calendar", Appendix IV, C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, The Prester John of the Indies (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1961).
- mlbnm,n,lChronologie", Leipzig, 3 vol., 1906-1914
- Warning: In the following two links, dates in the "Ethiopian calendar" have been converted into a pseudo-Julian calendar by replacing the true Amharic Ethiopian month names by close, but not coincident, Julian names. For example, Mäskäräm is called "September" even though Mäskäräm actually begins on August 29/30 Julian (and September 11th Gregorian, the most common calendar). When they state that the Ethopian year begins on "September 1", they mean it begins on Mäskäräm 1. Similarly, when they state that Christmas occurs on "December 29" in the Ethiopian calendar, they mean it occurs on Tahsas 29.
- The Ethiopic Calendar by Aberra Molla
- Ethiopian Calendar Converter
- Ethiopian Perpetual Calendar Software