Ethiopia is culturally diverse, has been existent since the beginning of time, and is incomparably unique. It is one of the richest countries in the world if affluence is measured in terms of cultural diversity & possession of historical records. One aspect of its uniqueness is having its own calendar, making it the only country to celebrate the 2nd millennium 8 years later than the rest of the world.
More than 100 000 Ethiopian Orthodox Christians took part in a procession in Addis Ababa for the first major religious festival of the country's third millennium.
Ethiopia follows a unique version of the Julian and marked a new millennium on September 12, seven years after the rest of the world.
Ethiopians on Thursday converged on Meskel square in the capital's centre, in larger numbers than often before during a ceremony where they sing hymns and beat drums to commemorate what the faithful regard as the finding of cross on which Jesus was crucified.
According to Ethiopian Christian tradition, Meskel - Amharic for cross - the festival celebrates the finding of the "true cross" by Saint Helena in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD.
She is believed to have found the hiding place where three crosses used during Jesus' crucifixion and identified the holy one by a miracle.
The story has it that St Helena gave pieces of the cross to all Orthodox churches and Ethiopia's church claims to still hold its own piece in a remote monastery.
Ethiopian calendar expalined
The calendars of the entire world are based on the work of the old Egyptian astronomers who discovered - as early as three to four thousand years BC - that the solar or sidereal year lasted slightly less than 365 ¼ days. However, it was left to the astronomers of the Alexandrian school to incorporate this knowledge into some sort of calendar; and it was these astronomers who also came up with the idea of leap years.
Subsequently, the Romans under Julius Caesar borrowed their reformed calendar from the Alexandrian science and adopted it to the western world. Then the Copts inherited this science as a right and built upon it themselves. In due course, the Copts handed this calendar, together with their method of computing the date of Easter, on to their descendant Church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian year therefore has something in common with the western year, having been derived from the same source.
So much so that the Ethiopian calendar retains the old Egyptian system whereby the year was divided into twelve months of thirty days each plus one additional month of five days (six days in leap years). Ethiopian dates therefore, fall 7- 8 years behind western dates and have done so since early Christian times. This discrepancy results from differences between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Churchas to the date of the creation of the world.
Each Ethiopian year is dedicated to one of the four Evangelists according to the cycle: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The year of St. Luke is Leap Year, and therefore always has six days in the thirteenth month of the Ethiopian calendar.