Don’t you wish you had more time at the end of the year? Ethiopians manage to squeeze a short 13th month to the end of theirs, culminating with the end of the rainy season and the emergence of little, yellow wildflowers across the countryside.
This September holiday commemorates the return of the Queen of Sheba from Jerusalem, where she had visited King Solomon as documented in I Kings 10 and II Chronicles 9, an encounter I wrote about in my earlier article, The Queen of Sheba and the raiders of the lost Ark.
When Sheba returned to Ethiopia after having exhausted her collection of gold, spice and jewels during her Jerusalem visit, her followers replenished her supply—giving reason to the holiday name, “enkutatash” or “gift of jewels.”
Girls wear new white dresses and carry yellow flowers from home to home, singing songs in exchange for small gifts.
Men demonstrate their strength by slaughtering sheep or goats at home, while the ladies stew up various dishes and make homemade cheese.
All gather for the traditional coffee ceremony, where in our Gurage home we blend it with clarified butter and spices.
Recall Ethiopia had closed its doors to foreigners at the start of the 17th century, just as the Gregorian calendar was coming into fashion. As a result, Ethiopians still adhere to a version of the Julian calendar that is severely out of sync today. Just go with it, as it takes a while to adjust to Ethiopian time.