Ethiopians use a 13-month calendar, which is seven years and eight months behind the western one and is similar to the one used by many Eastern Orthodox churches. According to the Gregorian calendar, September 11 is the Ethiopian New Year. Nearly 3,000 years ago, King Solomon sent the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba gifts, and the Bible says that God made the earth in the month of September. Upon her return, at the conclusion of the dry summer, yellow flowers began to bloom in the slopes surrounding Addis Abeba, signaling the end of a protracted drought and the start of new life in the country. In honor of their former empress, the celebration was given the name Enkutatash, which translates to “gift of the jewels.” Another reason why early Ethiopian Christians saw September as having unique spiritual importance is that there are an equal number of daylight and dark hours in September. Enkutatash is not a religious holiday simply because of its origins and symbolic significance. This time of year is viewed as a time for family and community, when we may set aside our differences and enjoy a common activity. Both Christians and atheists observe it. More traditional houses welcome visitors with bouquets of the yellow flowers that may be found in the foothills surrounding Addis Abeba, and gifts are commonly given and received. The Queen of Sheba received these exact roses all those years ago.
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