Would you like to go back in time?

Twelve months of 30 days and one month of 5 days. Yes, Ethiopia does really have 13 months, and being in the tropics it also has sunshine throughout the year. So the Ethiopian Tourism Commission adopted the slogan "13 months of sunshine" to promote Ethiopia as an all-year-round tourist destination. Visit Ethiopia and you will not only enjoy the wonderful climate but also go back in time.

Ethiopia's year has 13 months because it uses the old Julian calendar. Most Catholic countries adopted Pope Gregory XIII's more accurate calendar by 1584. In 1752 Great Britain (and the American colonies) accepted the Gregorian calendar. That year Britain's calendar jumped straight from 2 September to 14 September, eliminating 11 days to realign the old (Julian) calendar with the new (Gregorian) calendar. Japan accepted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, Greece in 1924, China in 1949. However, most Eastern Orthodox Churches still use the Julian calendar, as does Ethiopia, with its Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

If Ethiopia were to adopt the Gregorian calendar, it would have to jump ahead not just a few days but 7 years. That is how far the Julian calendar is now behind the Gregorian calendar, it being currently the year 2006 in Ethiopia.

Living in Ethiopia, I often have to convert between the Julian calendar, commonly called the Ethiopian calendar (EC), and the Gregorian calendar (GC). For example, 25 December 2013 is 16 Tahasas 2006, but in Ethiopia it is not Christmas Day, Christmas being celebrated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians two weeks later on 7 January (GC).

Here I describe the 13 months of sunshine, which have beautiful Amharic names (Amharic being the official language of Ethiopia), and I hope you enjoy learning about the Ethiopian year.

All photographs on this lens are my own. Copyright Kate Fereday Eshete. All rights reserved.


Stormy weather

five in a row New Year’s Day, 1 Meskerem, falls on 11 September according to the Gregorian calendar (12 September on leap years). At this time of year the heavy rains are drawing to a close and with the change from wet season to dry season comes stormy weather.

One Meskerem, I walked the 13.6 miles from the town of Debark to my village. As I came down the escarpment a storm rolled in from the north. Along with three other travellers, I sheltered in a hut used by two militiamen guarding the road. Luckily, the heavy rain and hail missed us. We ventured outside and the men did a weather-check. It is not only in temperate areas that you can experience summer and winter in one day!
Meskerem storm

Meskerem storm


New shoes

a display of shoes for sale With schools having re-opening in Meskerem, in early Tikimpt I shop for Ethiopian-made shoes for the schoolchildren at Empress Mentewab School. Most of the sandals and flip-flops are made of brightly-coloured plastic.

Footwear is important because of the risk of picking up hookworms, which enter a child’s bare feet, travel through the body and attach themselves to the wall of the gut, causing weakness and anaemia.

To protect the schoolchildren’s feet and health, I give them each a new pair of sandals. This is done once a year, and more often if funds permit.
new shoes for infants

new shoes for infants

Empress Mentewab School, Ethiopia

Empress Mentewab School
My family and I run Empress Mentewab School to provide the poor children in our community with a high-quality education. If you would like to cover the annual school fees for a schoolchild, the sponsorship cost is US$300. With the new school year beginning in September, now is a good time to set up an annual payment (using Paypal, if you wish). Please see the website for full details.
new shoes

the schoolchildren are thrilled to have sandals


A great time of year to visit Ethiopia

tour group in the Simien Mountains With the rainy season having ended and the countryside lush and green, Ethiopia looks its best in Hidar. Many tour operators have groups travelling around Ethiopia during this month.

In Hidar 2005 (EC) I was invited to join an English tour group visiting the Simien Mountains. We drove in a bus up to Chennek, at 12,000 feet. From there we had spectacular views of the mountains to the north-east, as well as the lowlands to the west.

The red-hot pokers on south-facing slopes were in flower. Usually they flower during the main rains, from Suni to Tikimpt, but where conditions are wetter (such as in the Simien Mountains) the flowering period extends to Tahasas.
Simien Mountains (view from Chennek to the north-east)

Simien Mountains (view from Chennek to the north-east)

red-hot pokers

red-hot pokers


The dry season

pied crow By now it hasn’t rained for a month or so and the countryside is beginning to look dry. It is hot during the day and can be cold at night.

At home the fruit on our peach trees are beginning to ripen. In another month some of them will be ready to pick. We shall have to compete with birds, squirrels and bats for the crop.

Pied crows visit our home and steal food from our cats’ bowls.

Much of the rest of the planet is in the grip of Christmas and New Year. In Ethiopia life goes on as usual. (Christian Ethiopians enjoy a commerce-free Christmas next month.) Towards the end of Tahasas the Gregorian calendar’s New Year is celebrated by other countries, but most Ethiopians are totally unaware of it.
peaches ripening

peaches ripening

Should Ethiopia conform?

Should Ethiopia adopt the Gregorian calendar?


Yes, Ethiopia should have the same calendar as the West because it would be easier for everyone.

No, Ethiopia should keep its traditional calendar and enjoy being different.

MountainBikeChallenges says:

No, I see no real reason why they should change. As long as they know what year it is in Ethiopia and also what year it is in the rest of the world should they wish to travel, then they should remain the same!

fyrdragon350 says:

i had no idea they lived by another calendar but it's great imo, it works for them so why change it.

Lewisgirl says:

If it is working, I don't see a need to change it.

Papier says:

It seems to be working fine and I don't like the idea of pushing a nation to conform with people who think they know better.

RubyHRose says:

Wow, I would love to go back in time like that. So cool to be able to say, there are such places right here on earth. Amazing. 13 Months of sunshine, very nice.

BunnyFabulous says:

It's not broken, so no reason to fix it. :) It's part of what makes Ethiopia itself.

DaisyDixon says:

I don't see a reason for it? Being different is a good thing to me, and I think its neat having "13 months of sunshine".

d-artist says:

Who are we to tell someone to change an old tradition, it's who we are!

Merrci says:

I think not. It's their country!

StephenJParkin says:

No they should stay as they are the Arabs have their own calendar too. It has never been a problem as long as people traveling are aware of the differences it is all part of the mystique of their cultures!

RenaissanceWoman2010 says:

I'm not big on conformity. Life is less interesting when everything is standardized. If the current calendar is working well for Ethiopia, there is no compelling reason to change.

RoadMonkey says:

Ethiopia should do what it wants

Mujjen says:

Don't see the need for us all to be the same. We usually used the Ethiopian calendar when speaking Amharic and the Gregorian when speaking English, to avoid confusion. (Didn't always work, though!) I really miss Ethiopia when I visit your lenses. Hopefully we'll go back for a long visit next year!

ChocolateLily says:

I don't see any reason they should. It doesn't really matter anyway. We're still all here irregardless.

flinnie says:

Hi I think it is nice, love the 13 month of sunshine.

MarathonRunning says:

There is no need for.

kiwinana71 says:

It's always nice to read article like these.
I would love to go back 50 years and live life different from the normal.



Bringing the harvest in

flower In Ter farmers are busy harvesting. Farm animals such as cattle or horses are driven round in a circle so that their hooves thresh the gathered crop on the ground, separating the grain from the straw. Afterwards the farmers will winnow the grain to remove chaff. This involves somebody throwing the grain into the air while someone else wafts out the chaff using an animal skin.

The lush green vegetation from the last rainy season has all died off. However, some plants have evolved to flower at this time.

This month has two important Christian festivals – Christmas and Epiphany.
farmers at work

farmers at work


Building work in progress

stone-breaker Yikatit is a good month to do building work. Long, dry grass is available for thatching, so thatchers are busy building and repairing thatches. Stone-breakers split big stones into fragments to be used in building projects.

In Yikatit 2005 (EC), a stone-breaker worked to split stones to be used to make the foundations of footpaths, paved playing areas, and floors at Empress Mentewab School. A thatcher made the roof of the sand-pit. All the buildings at Empress Mentewab School are thatched, although a couple of them have thatch laid over sheets of corrugated-metal to provide additional protection from heavy rain.
thatcher at work

thatcher at work


Contented cats

kitten Our cats love the hot, dry weather in the middle of the dry season. They explore the garden and climb trees. They bask in the sunshine. Sometimes they retreat inside the house to sleep in the shade.

We have a cat colony, having no way to neuter our cats. Ethiopian vets learn how to castrate and spay dogs when they study Veterinary Medicine at university but they are not taught to neuter cats. We would like to give kittens away, but they never thrive in Ethiopian households and usually die, so now we keep them all. Even so some of our kittens are victims of the killer viruses, for which inoculations are not available here. Because of this, we are not overrun by cats. It’s natural selection – the weak die and the strong live. The kittens we lose are happy and loved while they live their short lives, and that’s the main thing. I dream of a foreign vet coming to visit us and neutering and vaccinating our cats. I hope it happens one day.
(from left to right) Lily and Rose with Cassandra Trebuchet

(from left to right) Lily and Rose, with Cassandra Trebuchet


My birthday month

bananas In Britain I used to celebrate my birthday in April with spring showers. It was never quite hot enough for my taste. But here in Ethiopia my birthday falls in Meazia, which is a very hot month, being at the end of the long dry season. Now I am guaranteed a hot, sunny birthday, which is just what I like!

My favourite fruit is the banana and these are plentiful in Meazia. We buy them very cheaply by the bucketful. We have planted many banana trees on our land and hope to savour our own crops of bananas in future.

When a Hemprich’s hornbill appeared outside our house one Meazia, my husband said, “Rain’s coming”. And, sure enough, a day or so later we had a short, sharp shower of rain, which freshened everything up nicely. It is a reminder that the rainy season is only weeks away, so it’s time to go and buy an umbrella!
Hemprich's hornbill

Hemprich’s hornbill


The last month of the dry season

locust Ginbot is a very hot month. Usually it is dry, but sometimes the rains begin early and so the end of Ginbot is wet and humid. At this time of year, we make sure anything that might be damaged by rain is put under cover. After only a few showers of rain, the parched ground becomes green with growing vegetation. There is an increase in insect activity, with army ants marching across the compound and termites eating the leaves off the saplings we have planted. We see lone locusts, but have never seen a cloud of them.

At Empress Mentewab School the new buildings have freshly thatched roofs that are golden in colour. By the end of the rainy season the roofs will be dark brown like the first classroom, which was built in 2012.
signs of green growth at Empress Mentewab School

signs of green growth at Empress Mentewab School


The heavy rains arrive

fungi The school year is drawing to a close. The rains begin in earnest in early Suni. Because the season is changing, it is often stormy, with strong winds and pea-sized hailstones. Most Ethiopian houses are made of a mud-straw mix plastered over a wooden frame. Wind and hail can damage thatched or corrugated-metal roofs and wash away the mud rendering on walls. This is the time of year when the risk of damage to buildings is greatest.

The damp conditions suit fungi, which grow in many different sizes and colours.

We have a rescued bitch, Melita, who has not yet been spayed. Every year she has two litters of puppies, which we give away. Before the rains set in, we find families for the puppies so that they can get settled in their new homes before the worst of the Ethiopian “winter”.
Melita and her puppies

Melita and her puppies


The rainy season

hailballs The schools close in early Hamble. Now there is heavy rain daily. Because thick cloud obscures the sun, the temperature drops. Big, noisy storms roll off the Simien Mountains on top of us, with wind, hail, thunder and lightning. We huddle indoors! There are power cuts lasting days, weeks – even a whole month, as happened in Hamble 2005 (EC). We cook on a wood fire under cover outside. In the evening we light candles, but go to bed early. I like to listen to audiobooks but the thundering of the hail on the corrugated-metal roof can be so loud I can’t hear a thing, despite having the earphones in my ears! Sometimes we wake to find haildrifts outside and the children have fun making hailballs!

Despite the bad weather, it is unusual not to have sunshine for at least part of each day during the rainy season.



The month with the heaviest rain

wattled ibis During Nehasi it buckets down with rain every day. Our tall red rose bush enjoys the humid conditions and flowers profusely. The scent of the rose is exquisite and is one of my favourite smells.

By now Ethiopia’s reservoirs and lakes are full. Rivers are swollen and dangerous. Bridges, cars, people and animals are washed away. There are landslides and mudslides on mountainsides. Every rainy season there are fatalities because of the heavy rain.

In Nehasi 2005 (EC), a family of four wattled ibises (parents and two youngsters) visited us and liked to walk noisily across our roof. They stayed about ten days before leaving. Wattled ibises are found in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where they are common. They have a very distinctive kowrr-kowrr-kowrr call.
tall rose bush in the rain

tall rose bush in the rain


The thirteenth month

a handsome fellow Quagme is only 5 days long (6 days in leap years). Workers are not paid for the month of Quagme. It’s a time when everyone’s thoughts are turning to New Year’s Day on 1 Meskerem. Many people give their homes and businesses a thorough deep clean (a “spring clean”) before New Year. They move all the furniture out and scrub the floors.

Cattle, sheep, goats and chickens are bought ready for slaughtering at home to celebrate New Year. Sometimes families club together to buy an animal and the meat is shared between then. My family is vegetarian so we don’t participate in the mass slaughter.

And so the Ethiopian year comes to an end. The cloud disperses, the rains ease and the land is warmed once again by glorious sunshine. After New Year, the schools will open for the new academic year.
local goats

local goats

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Before reading this lens, did you know that there are countries that do not use the Gregorian calendar? Do you know of other countries or peoples that use different calendars?
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  • asereht1970 Jun 08, 2014 @ 1:13 am
    This is a very informative lens. I didn't know that there are countries who do not use the Gregorian Calendar. To tell the truth, when I hear the word Ethiopia, what comes to mind is the picture of kids during the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia, the song We Are the World and USA for Africa. Your lens pictured a very beautiful Ethiopia. So close to nature. Thanks for sharing.
  • KateFeredayEshete Jul 02, 2014 @ 1:39 am
    I'm so glad your perception of Ethiopia was changed. I hope you take a look at my other lenses on Ethiopia - you'll be surprised by the beautiful images.
  • CubScouter94 Mar 02, 2014 @ 2:38 am
    I did not realize or even think about the fact that there were countries that use different calendars. Your photos are amazing and beautiful. I love seeing the kids and the countryside. Thanks for sharing.
  • MountainBikeChallenges Jan 20, 2014 @ 10:19 pm
    Amazing! I knew that there were countries out there not using the same calendar as us in the West, but I hadn't really thought about who they were or what the calendars were called. Fascinating history in here. Congrats on LOTD! :-)
  • Jogalog Jan 20, 2014 @ 1:53 am
    I knew that in the past different calenders were used but I didn't know that there were any countries that continued to use different calendars. It's a fascinating lens.
  • lollyj Jan 18, 2014 @ 5:38 pm
    I loved this fascinating, informative lens. The pictures were wonderful. Congrats on LOTD.
  • Anonymous831 Jan 18, 2014 @ 2:25 am
    Wonderful Lens!
  • Lewisgirl Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:16 pm
    Fascinating lens. I had no idea of the Julian calendar. Congrats on LOTD!
  • vallain Jan 17, 2014 @ 8:43 pm
    What a marvelous job you've done showing us what it is like there. Thank you.
  • Papier Jan 17, 2014 @ 4:43 pm
    It's fascinating to learn more about Ethiopia from someone who lives and works there.
  • RubyHRose Jan 17, 2014 @ 4:11 pm
    I love this lens! How awesome to give us this birds eye view of another country like this. I learned so much by reading this and it really helped with my sun hunger I struggle with this time of year. I knew there were different types of calendars, never stopped to think how other countries still used them. Congratulations on LOTD!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 4:28 pm
    So glad that it helped with your "sun hunger", Ruby!
  • ChocolateLily Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:37 pm
    Congrats on your LOTD! You deserve it!
  • MSchindel Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:36 pm
    What a fantastic, informative and fascinating article! Congratulations on your well deserved purple star and lens of the day.
  • BunnyFabulous Jan 17, 2014 @ 1:36 pm
    Fantastic lens! I'd known about the differences in the Ethiopian calendar since my brother and his family lived in Addis Ababa for two years, but I've never heard such a lovely description of each of the months. My brother had told me stories about celebrating Christmas and New Year in Ethiopia and how different it is from US celebrations. He misses it sometimes.
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 4:02 pm
    Only two years! What a pity your brother and his family couldn't have stayed longer. I first came to Ethiopia in 1994 and have lived here since 2002 but hardly a day goes by when I don't learn something new about this amazing country. There's so much to learn. Thanks for your kind words, Bunny.
  • DaisyDixon Jan 17, 2014 @ 1:07 pm
    I learn so many new things here on Squidoo. This was a very enjoyable read, and I loved your pictures. Its so great to be able to learn so much about a new place in the world. You sound like a great and inspiring person!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:52 pm
    Thanks, Daisy! I hope you are inspired to do something similar with your life.
  • d-artist Jan 17, 2014 @ 11:04 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! Yes I knew about the Gregorian calendar, but didn't realize it was in Ethiopia...a very interesting and informative lens...Thank You for what you do, it's to be admired. God Bless you!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:47 pm
    Thanks, d-artist.
  • sybil-watson Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:35 am
    I had no idea that there are countries that don't use the Gregorian calendar - how interesting. I loved seeing this window into your life, especially the precious smiles on your schoolchildren.
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:46 pm
    Yes, our schoolchildren smile a lot. We try our best to make learning fun for them. I'm glad you enjoyed the lens.
  • Merrci Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:24 am
    This was such an interesting read, clever to describe each month. Thanks so much, and congrats on LotD! I didn't know the calendars differed anywhere! And to have a 13th month just a few days long is quite fun. Very well done lens!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:43 pm
    Thanks, Merrci. Like you, I used to assume the whole world used the Gregorian calendar. I'm glad you found my lens educational.
  • Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:24 am
    Fascinating lens. Learned a lot about a very interesting country. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • ElaineMarlowe Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:20 am
    What a beautiful lens. I think they should keep their Julian calendar . Many countries still have their own traditional calenders such as China and the Jewish Calender, but adhere to the Gregarian calendar to deal with the rest of the world. I've heard that the Myan Calendar is probably the most accurate, but no one uses that anymore. Who knows whatever works.
  • Charito1962 Jan 17, 2014 @ 10:05 am
    What an informative lens! Thanks for sharing.
  • StephenJParkin Jan 17, 2014 @ 9:54 am
    Yes the Islamic calendar is even more behind this is Today's Date: Friday, 01/17/114 I am not sure how this is derived, but it moves forward a few days each year as they do not use 13 months like Ethiopia. I lived and worked in Riyadh for 7 years and miss the almost constant sunshine too!

    Well done on the LOTD!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:41 pm
    That's very interesting about the Islamic calendar, Stephen. Yes, I love the (almost) constant sunshine of Ethiopia. I would find it very hard to live in a high latitude country after this.
  • KandH Jan 17, 2014 @ 9:49 am
    That's very interesting, I never realised there was such a huge difference. It would probably take quite a bit of getting used to if I was to move or even visit there but I think it's very cool :) Great share!
  • Susan52 Jan 17, 2014 @ 9:43 am
    Back to say congratulations on your Lens of the Day!
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:37 pm
    Thanks, Susan. It came as quite a surprise!
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Jan 17, 2014 @ 8:59 am
    Your lenses are always so interesting and educational. I find your country and life so fascinating. I need to see if my vet friend would travel to Ethiopia to offer a veterinary clinic as she does for our animal shelter (spay/neuter and vaccinations). I love what you are doing (who you are) for the children of your village. Congrats on Lens of the Day! It was a joy to visit with you, my friend (even if virtually).
  • KateFeredayEshete Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:36 pm
    Thanks for your kind comments. If all goes to plan, a Canadian vet will be coming to my village in February 2014 to do neutering and rabies vaccinations for cats and dogs, but only for a week, so if your vet friend is interested in doing the same in future, I'd love to hear from her.
  • RoadMonkey Jan 17, 2014 @ 7:30 am
    Really interesting. My brother taught in Africa for many years, but never in Ethiopia. It's lovely to hear about a whole year in that country.
  • esmonaco Jan 17, 2014 @ 5:16 am
    This is something that I didn't know, this is why I like Squidoo because I learn new things every day. Thanks so much for the tour and beautiful pictures. Congratulations on LOTD!!
  • tim-bader-982 Jan 17, 2014 @ 4:09 am
    I knew some countries had different calendars, but I didn't know that some still used the Julian calendar. Very interesting!
  • favored1 Jan 17, 2014 @ 3:36 am
    Thank you for all you do. Congratulations on LotD. It certainly seems right.
  • eva_writes Jan 17, 2014 @ 2:32 am
    I didn't know abut Ethiopia having a different calendar! Really interesting lens, and amazing pictures.
  • DreyaB Oct 07, 2013 @ 3:55 pm
    I was aware that not everyone used the same calendar but wasn't sure how it differed. It's so great that you get to share your view of the world with eveyone and challenge all our perceptions. It was really interesting reading about your year. Thanks for sharing.
  • ChocolateLily Sep 30, 2013 @ 9:38 pm
    Very interesting lens! I do not know much about Ethiopia, so thanks for sharing.
  • flinnie Sep 27, 2013 @ 10:45 pm
    Hi thanks for sharing this with us. I enjoyed reading your lens.
  • MarathonRunning Sep 26, 2013 @ 8:48 am
    I didn`t know that there are 13 months in Ethiopian calendar. This was such an interesting voyage! I especially like the pictures; they made everything so vivid and make your lenses look like professional expeditions articles.
    Great Lens :)
  • KateFeredayEshete Sep 27, 2013 @ 12:53 pm
    So now you know about the 13-month Ethiopian calendar and I'm glad you found the lens enjoyable. It's easy to take good photographs in Ethiopia, with it being so picturesque here.
  • Susan52 Sep 25, 2013 @ 2:30 pm
    I had no idea that Ethiopia (or anyplace else on Earth) didn't observe the "normal" calendar. Very interesting. It's also quite interesting to read how you write about natural selection and the annual floods and animals and even people getting washed away. It all "feels" very different from the way we perceive such tragedies here in the U.S. I have to wonder how big a part news coverage plays into the way we see these events. Food for thought... Great lens and beautifully written, as always. You have a true gift without a doubt.
  • KateFeredayEshete Sep 27, 2013 @ 12:50 pm
    I'm glad you found this lens interesting, Susan. And thanks for your complimentary words.
  • kiwinana71 Sep 24, 2013 @ 9:48 pm
    No I don't know that much about the rest of the world, but I sure love learning and your part of the world is great.
    I wouldn't mind living there myself, my kind of life.
    Thanks for sharing a delightful place, loved those children all showing there sandals, precious.
  • KateFeredayEshete Sep 27, 2013 @ 12:49 pm
    Thanks, Elsie. Yes, that photo of the children with their new shoes is a great one!

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