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Enkutatash - Ethiopian New Year

The Ethiopian New Year falls, due to Ethiopia's different time counting, on September 11th. The festival celebrates both the New Year and the feast of John the Baptist and has not only a religious background but also celebrates the end of the rainy season and the beginning of spring.

At this time the highlands turn gold with the yellow flowers of the Meskal daisies. The sun comes out creating an atmosphere of dazzling clarity and fresh clean sir. Children dressed in new clothes dance through the villages, distributing garlands, greetings and tiny paintings to the households. In the evening, in rural areas, every house lights a bonfire and there is singing and dancing.

The New Years day is also called Enkutatash, meaning 'the gift of jewels'. The name comes from a gift the chiefs of Queen Sheba made her, when she returned from an expensive journey from Jerusalem. The main religious celebration takes place in Gaynet, near Gondar, in the 14th century Kidus Yohannes Church. Three days of prayers, psalms and colorful processions mark the advent of the New Year.

In Addis Ababa, the largest celebration takes place in the Raguel Church, on top of Entoto Mountain, about 10 km from the city centre.