History of Ethiopian New Year: What is Enkutatash?

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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) as well as a large amount of unique spices and jewels. When the Queen returned to Ethiopia her chiefs welcomed her with enku or jewels to replenish her treasury.


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 boys paint pictures of saints. Families visit friends and adults drink Ethiopian beer.


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Modern Day

As I mentioned in the article for the Washington Post, the availability of modern social media and Internet resources makes the promotion of this ethnic and cultural holiday more visible for this Diaspora of African and Caribbean peoples. Kickstarted by the Ethiopian African Millennium Group back 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.

Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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