Ethiopian Calendar Belongs In A Museum

Happy 2008 to Ethiopia! We urge the nation to get even with the world, at least at counting.

Based on the Coptic Calendar, Ethiopian Calendar has 13 months; twelve of them with 30 days each and the last one with 5 except in a leap year when it adds the 6th day. Ethiopian New Year approximately marks the end of the rainy season.

If you are wondering why seven or eight years behind, you are not alone. But the answer is simple. It’s a fight between two ancient monks: Annianus of Alexandria and Dionysius Exiguus.

Annianus, the 5th century monk, whose dates were based on biblical stories, was adopted by the Coptic Calendar. His writings are not available. Ethiopia chose this counting.

Dionysius Exiguus, the 6th century monk also known as the inventor of Anno Domini (A.D.), who computed the year of birth of Christ, had a disregard for the number “zero” and other biblical stories. Exiguus’ calendar started from 1 A.D. instead of 0, which made him skip 1 year. Today’s date would have been September 11, 2014.

Things could get worse for Exiguus. In the Bible, Herod ordered the killings of all boys who were 2 years old and under, in Bethlehem and surrounding villages. That puts Christ’s age between 0 and 2 years. Herod is believed to be have lived in 4 B.C. If Christ was already born in 4 B.C., Exiguus should have started his A.D. counting at least four years earlier. He had a net of 3 years we could add to the current calendar; we would be in the year 2018 now.

If we assume Christ was a 2-year-old when Herod was killing boys, we would be in the year 2020 right now. That might have made Ethiopia 12 years behind the rest of the world [we meant in calendar; maybe a century behind in other areas.]

The continued use of Ethiopian Calendar is an effort of the last century’s dominant church, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido. This church has been resistant to change. It has also promoted a single language, a single culture, a different alphabet and a different calendar for the most part of its life, which the ruling regimes adopted.

Now is the time for Ethiopia to join the rest of the world. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido church should keep the calendar if it chooses to, but the state should abandon it.

Uniqueness doesn’t have to be backwardness, literally.


The Horn Post Editorial.

As originally published on Sept. 12, 2015.