Ethiopian Holidays

Ethiopian Holidays

Ethiopia, a land of rich cultural heritage and ancient traditions, is home to a plethora of unique holidays that reflect its diverse history, religious beliefs, and agricultural rhythms. From joyous festivities marking religious occasions to solemn remembrances of historical events, each of Ethiopia holiday holds deep significance in the hearts of Ethiopians, binding communities together and fostering a sense of unity and belonging.

Public holidays in Ethiopia

There are 13 public holidays in Ethiopia where ten are official in which government offices, most businesses and schools close. Bellow is the list of Ethiopian holidays in Ethiopia each year.

Ethiopian Christmas (Genna) – January 7

Ethiopian Christmas, celebrated on January 7th, is the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas, which follows the Ethiopian calendar. This joyous holiday commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ with solemn church services, prayers, and colorful processions. Unique to Ethiopian Christmas is the tradition of “Genna” or “Yegena Chewata,” a spirited game reminiscent of field hockey, played by young men wielding wooden sticks and a leather ball. Families gather to enjoy traditional feasts and exchange gifts, spreading warmth and goodwill throughout the community.

Ethiopian Epiphany (Timkat) – January 19

Timkat, celebrated on January 19th (or January 20th in leap years), marks the Ethiopian Orthodox Epiphany and the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. This vibrant holiday is characterized by colorful processions, hymn singing, and the ceremonial reenactment of baptismal rites. Crowds gather around ornately decorated replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, carried by priests in grand processions to nearby bodies of water for symbolic blessings and immersion.

Victory of Adwa Commemoration Day – March 2

Adwa Victory Day, celebrated on March 2nd, commemorates Ethiopia’s historic victory over Italian forces at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. This significant event marked the first defeat of a European colonial power by an African nation in the modern era, becoming a symbol of African unity and resistance against imperialism. Ethiopians honor the bravery and resilience of their ancestors through ceremonies, parades, and cultural performances, reaffirming national pride and sovereignty.

Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan) – March 13

Eid al-Fitr, known as “Feter” in Ethiopia, marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. Although predominantly celebrated by the Muslim community, Eid al-Fitr is a national holiday in Ethiopia observed by people of all faiths, emphasizing the country’s ethos of religious tolerance and unity. Ethiopians prepare special delicacies and engage in charitable acts, including giving alms to the less fortunate, as they come together to celebrate the joyous occasion.

Ethiopian Easter (Fasika) – April 27 Moveable

Fasika, the Ethiopian Orthodox Easter, is a sacred and joyous occasion commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Falling in April or May, depending on the Orthodox calendar, Fasika is preceded by a season of fasting known as Lent. Ethiopians observe Fasika with elaborate church services, processions, and traditional feasts featuring dishes such as doro wat (spicy chicken stew) and injera (sourdough flatbread). Families and friends come together to share meals and exchange blessings, reaffirming bonds of love and solidarity.

Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash) – Sepember 11

Enkutatash, meaning “gift of jewels” in Amharic, heralds the Ethiopian New Year and falls on September 11th (or September 12th in leap years). Celebrated with great fervor and merriment, Enkutatash marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the sunny months, symbolizing renewal and fresh beginnings. Families come together to share feasts, exchange gifts, and partake in traditional dances, while colorful flowers adorn homes and streets, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Finding of the True Cross (Meskel) – September 27 Moveable

Meskel, observed on September 27th, commemorates the discovery of the True Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, according to Ethiopian Orthodox tradition. The holiday traces its origins to the 4th century when Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, is believed to have unearthed the cross in Jerusalem. Ethiopians celebrate Meskel with elaborate religious ceremonies, processions, and the lighting of a large bonfire called “Demera,” symbolizing the direction given by Saint Helena to find the True Cross.

Other Ethiopian Holiday Dates

Eid al-Adha (Arafa) – April 17
Ethiopian Good Friday (Siklet) – April 25 Moveable
International Labour Day – May 1
Patriots Victory Day – April 6
Downfall of the Dergue – May 28
Birth of Prophet Mohammed (Moulid) – July 17
Irreecha (Oromo Thanksgiving) Movable dates in October