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Unique Ceremonies

Unique Ceremonies

here are many great national and local holidays and celebrations throughout the year and all over the country. Every one of the 54,000 parish Churches and the 800 monasteries of the Orthodox Tewahido Church all have at least one minor monthly and one major annual festival. These may share origins with Christian, Muslim and tribal festivals elsewhere in the world, but have unique indigenous characteristics in Ethiopia. If you can, try to plan your trip around one of the following spectacular festivals:

Meskel (The Finding of the True Cross) Celebrated on September 27 at an open amphitheater (Meskel Square) in Addis Abeba with a huge bonfire and priests in splendid ceremonial attire

Genna(Ethiopian Christmas) in Lalibela Observed two weeks after European Christmas on January 7.

Timket (Epiphany) this involves a colourful procession of priests and followers singing and dancing. They carry the Tabots (replicas of the Holy Ark of the Covenant that sanctifies and sits on the altar of every Ethiopian Orthodox Church inside the Holy of Holies) from their sanctuaries overnight. Celebrated on Epiphany, January 19, Timket is the most popular national holiday among Ethiopian Christians. The best venues for Timket are Addis Abeba, Gondar, Axum and Lalibela.

Bull jumping and Donga Of the many fascinating rituals, ceremonies and celebrations of the various tribal groups of the Omo in southwest Ethiopia is bull jumping. This is a rite of passage ceremony in which female relatives of a young man are flogged to bleeding as proof of their affection. This then qualifies the initiate for marriage. In other groups a fierce stick fight known as donga is part of an initiation ritual for young men to become adults and marry. These ceremonies have no fixed venues and times as such. They take place all over the Hamer and Surma lands and, depending on the rains, in February-March/April.

Calendar

Calendar

Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which comprises twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days (or six days in a leap year). The calendar is seven years and eight months behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

Clocks and Time
The Ethiopian clock is similar to many equatorial countries and there is a six-hour difference between Ethiopian and Western time. This means Western 6:00 am is 12:00am Ethiopian time and 6pm Western time is 12 noon Ethiopian time. Ethiopia is also three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

However, there is no adjustment of clocks for winter or Summer Time, so there is no putting clocks backward or forwards an hour. Being close to the Equator there is almost twelve hours of constant daylight. In Addis Ababa, sunrise begins at around 06.30 and sunset is about 18:45.

Language
Amharic is the official language of Ethiopia, although English, Italian, French and Arabic are fairly spoken. Ethiopians are proud of their rich tongue and frequently make the point that its vocabulary is as extensive as that of English, if not more so and that English should be used for foreign correspondence. But English is still widely spoken and remains a principal medium of instruction in secondary schools.

In addition to Amharic, with the unique and elegant alphabet, there are around 80 local languages and about 200 dialects in the country.

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