Ethiopian calendar

The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር yä'Ityoṗṗya zämän aḳoṭaṭär), also called the Ge'ez calendar, is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea belonging to the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. It is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which in turn derives from the 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. A seven- to eight-year gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from alternate calculations in determining the date of the Annunciation of Jesus.

Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopian calendar has twelve months of 30 days each plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge'ez. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years without exception on August 29 of 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 in years before the Gregorian leap year.

The current year according to the Ethiopian calendar is 2004, which began on September 12, 2011 AD of the Gregorian calendar.

Contents

New Year's Day

Enkutatash is the word for the Ethiopian new year in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, while it is called Ri'se Awde Amet (Head Anniversary) in Ge'ez, the term preferred by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It occurs on September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for leap years, when it occurs on September 12. The Ethiopian calendar year 1998 'Amätä 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.

This date correspondence applies from the Gregorian years 1900 to 2099. Generally, because every fourth Ethiopian year is a leap year without exception, while Gregorian years divisible by 100 are not leap years, a set of corresponding dates will thus apply only for one century. However, because the Gregorian year 2000 is a leap year, then in this case the correspondences continue for two centuries.

Eras

To indicate the year, Ethiopians and followers of the Eritrean churches today use the Incarnation Era, which dates from the Annunciation or Incarnation of Jesus on March 25 of 9 AD (Julian), as calculated by Annianus of Alexandria c. 400; thus its first civil year began seven months earlier on August 29, 8 AD. Meanwhile, Europeans eventually adopted the calculations made by Dionysius Exiguus in 525 AD instead, which placed the Annunciation 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 and the Axumite Kingdom:

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 Gregorian 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 AD 400, 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.

Months

Ge'ez, Amharic, and Tigrinya (with Tigrinya suffixes in parentheses) Coptic Gregorian start date Start date in year after
sixth epagomenal day
Mäskäräm (መስከረም) Tut (Thout) September 11 September 12
Ṭəqəmt(i) (ጥቅምት) Babah (Paopi) October 11 October 12
Ḫədar (ኅዳር) Hatur (Hathor) November 10 November 11
Taḫśaś ( ታኅሣሥ) Kiyahk (Koiak) December 10 December 11
Ṭərr(i) (ጥር) Tubah (Tobi) January 9 January 10
Yäkatit (Tn. Läkatit) (የካቲት) Amshir (Meshir) February 8 February 9
Mägabit (መጋቢት) Baramhat (Paremhat) March 10 March 10
Miyazya (ሚያዝያ) Baramundah (Paremoude) April 9 April 9
Gənbot (ግንቦት) Bashans (Pashons) May 9 May 9
Säne (ሰኔ) Ba'unah (Paoni) June 8 June 8
Ḥamle (ሐምሌ) Abib (Epip) July 8 July 8
Nähase (ነሐሴ) Misra (Mesori) August 7 August 7
Ṗagʷəmen/Ṗagume (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ) Nasi (Pi Kogi Enavot) September 6 September 6

Note that these dates are valid only from March 1900 to February 2100.

Sources

  • "The Ethiopian Calendar", Appendix IV, C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, The Prester John of the Indies (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1961).
  • Ginzel, Friedrich Karl, "Handbuch der matematischen und technischen Chronologie", Leipzig, 3 vol., 1906-1914

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