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Ethiopians as other Orthodox Churches(Russia, Greek...) have a different calendar than the West. Ethiopians celebrate festivals such as Christmas and Easter at a different time from Western Churches.

Ethiopian Christmas falls on January 7th, and Easter is usually a fortnight after the West's. Easter and Christmas are very important festivals and both are preceded by periods of fasting, 40 days in Advent and 56 days for Lent.

Fasting is serious and is observed by adults. People eat only after 3pm in the afternoon, going through the morning with no food or water. Ethiopian Orthodox church mandates having no meat, fat, eggs or milk, and fasting is not just in Advent and Lent. There are, in all, 250 fasting days every year, as it is observed every Wednesday and Friday (Wednesday when Christ was condemned and Friday when He was crucified), except at Christmas and Easter when it gives way to celebrations.

At Christmas the end of fasting is celebrated and presents are given, but in Ethiopia this leads up to what is an even more important celebration on the 19th of January - i.e. Epiphany or 12th night.

This festival is called Timkat, and in our Church Calendar as well as theirs, it was the day of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, so water plays an important part in the Ethiopian celebrations. The Holy Tabots are taken out of the churches to near some water (river, lake or spring if possible) on the evening of January 18th. Priests (and some people) pray all night and on the 19th, Holy Water is sprinkled over the congregation.

The next most important festival is 'Meskal' on September 27th each year. This is said to be the anniversary of the discovery of the True Cross by St. Helena (Roman Empress) who was supposed to have found the cross on which Jesus was crucified and had it divided into 4 parts of which one was sent to Rome, one to Constantinople, one to Alexandria and one to Antioch. The festival of Meskal has more processions carrying the Holy Tabot, many services, and everywhere is decorated with the 'Meskal flower' - a yellow daisy which covers the countryside at this time.

There are many other festivals and Saints' days throughout the year. Saints are regarded as intermediaries to carry people's prayers to God. The Virgin Mary is venerated above all others and there are 33 special days to honor her. Angels are believed to be sent by God to help the faithful in times of trouble.

As well as a different Church Calendar, Ethiopia has it's own annual calendar - they are 8 years behind the Western calendar, so they call this year 1997 although to us it is 2005. This comes from Orthodox interpretation of the dating of the year of Christ's birth. Administratively, though, Ethiopians use both calendars as do the other Orthodox countries.

Ethiopia has a large Muslim population and the following holidays are observed; Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendar and thus fall at different times each year. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is devoted to Ramadan, which is marked by fasting. The greatest Muslim feast of the year is 'Id Al Fatr', which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The 'Id al Adha' is the feast marking Abraham's sacrifice. On these days, after praying and listening to the imam (religious leader) preach, Muslim Ethiopians sacrifice animals and distribute part of the meat to the poor. Muslims also celebrate the prophet Mohammed's birthday 'Moulid' and mark the anniversaries of numerous martyrs.

- Adapted with minor changes The Ethiopian Calendar by Anita Wood, and Settlement

 



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