ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopians on Saturday marked the first day of the Ethiopian New Year, as the East African country welcomed the year 2014 with hope for national harmony and peaceful coexistence.
The Ethiopian New Year, or Enkutatash in Amharic language, falls on Sept. 11 (or Sept. 12 during a leap year).
The East African nation uses a unique calendar, which counts its year seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. Presently, the country is celebrating the arrival of the year of 2014.
As the just concluded Ethiopian 2013 witnessed a deadly conflict that erupted in the country's Northernmost Tigray regional state between government and rebel forces which is now expanded to neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, Ethiopians are now welcoming the New Year relatively in a feeble mood than ever.
In addition to hoping to see an end for the recently expanding conflict, Ethiopians are anticipating the just started 2014 to bring about better market conditions exacerbated by the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the capital of Addis Ababa, the disruptions and price hikes are highly visible across markets, with soaring prices for festive commodities across holiday markets witnessed by Xinhua journalists.
Often, a community or a village will pool money to slaughter a cow (worth about 1,000 U.S. dollars) in groups, while each household can choose to slaughter a less expensive sheep (about 130 U.S. dollars).
Abraham Alehegn, 39, who was out at the Shola live animal market in Addis Ababa along with his neighbors on the eve of the holiday, complained that the market is rising "beyond our expectation and financial capabilities."
"I was here yesterday hoping to buy a sheep or goat. Unfortunately, the price range was not something close to my financial capabilities," he told Xinhua Friday. "We thought the price would somehow normalize today, yet, as you see, it's not getting any lower."
Alehegn, along with his neighbors, is now looking for a cow to share in a group at a cheaper price instead.
Meaza Molalet, who was at the market to purchase hen and other poultry products, stressed that the market disruption would normalize if the country comes to harmony with an end to the ongoing conflict in parts of the country.
"I believe the current condition is attributed to the challenges we are facing, mainly the conflict and the Coronavirus. I hope both market and other socioeconomic conditions will improve once the country becomes peaceful," she stressed.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who is celebrating the New Year with members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces traveling to the frontline, assured Ethiopians that the just-started Ethiopian 2014 will mark better conditions, with an end to the ongoing conflict.
Since the early hours of Nov. 4, the Ethiopian government has been undertaking military operations against forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) after the TPLF forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian army stationed in the Tigray region.
ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR
Ethiopian New Year brings an extended family together to attend a series of events, including the slaughtering of livestock, either a sheep, goat, or cow, depending on a household's financial condition.
Ethiopia has its own calendar with 13 months, and each of the 12 months has 30 days, while the 13th month called Pagumen has five days, which becomes six in each leap year.
Enkutatash is literally translated as "gift of jewels," a name that derives from the story of the Queen of Sheba, the ancient queen of Ethiopia.
Ethiopian New Year comes at the time when the heavy rainfall starts to cease, and the bright sun comes to shine over the green land, which is also covered by the golden flower, known in Amharic language as "Adey Abeba."
As it comes with change of season, the New Year in Ethiopia is celebrated with new hope, and the people are making special preparations.
Enkutatash marks the end of the three-month rainy season, when bright autumn days return to the vastly highland nation. On the night of the eve, each household or neighbors light wooden torches in groups called "chibo" to symbolize the coming of the new season of sunshine.
Steeped in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church traditions, Enkutatash celebrations usually begin with church activities. New Year church programs start some time after midnight on the eve and last into the next morning.
Coffee ceremony is an integral part of the celebration. The ritual of coffee serving and drinking, which can last for hours, is an important social occasion offering reunion for relatives and friends and a chance to discuss community matters while enjoying top-notch coffee.
To be invited to a coffee ceremony in an Ethiopian family is a sign of great respect.
Enkutatash is also a special day for children. They gather in groups and go from house to house -- girls play the Amharic song "Abebaye Hoy," meaning "I have seen flowers," with hand drums, while boys often present pictures painted by themselves -- with expectations of praise and gifts.
For children, the new attire from parents and gifts from community members are undoubtedly the most expected thing of Enkutatash. Enditem