Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Today is the start of the New Year according to the Ethiopian calendar. Ethiopia never adopted the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced in Europe at the end of the 16th century in replacement of the less accurate Julian one. So here, we are now in 2004. Great to move to a new country and suddenly be seven years younger! The Ethiopian calendar, also known as the Ge’ez calendar, is based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar. It has 12 months of 30 days and an extra month of 5 days, which is increased to 6 days every four years, similarly to our leap year. The seven-year gap with the Gregorian calendar is explained by a different calculation of Jesus Christ’s date of birth.
For the past week, the city has been preparing for the party. On every street corner, live goats and sheep are being sold; they will be slaughtered by the men of the family and shared with all the relatives, while the skin will go to the developing leather industry. Bundles of wood are also being sold ready for the traditional New Year’s Eve bonfire, supposed to bring good omen for the coming year. At this time, people become very superstitious, they are extremely careful about everything, as they believe that if they are meant to die in one given year but are still alive as it is coming to an end, it may happen in the remaining few days. In some parts of the city, we see long lines of women queuing to take the holy waters, which they believe have miraculous properties and have the power to protect them from evil deeds.
Because everything is still so new to us, we won’t even try to go near the centre of town for the many parties. It’s all too soon; I still feel I’ve just landed, so maybe next year…
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Documenting the Baskeet language - a blog about linguistic fieldwork in South Ethiopia