It is Year 2000: Ethiopia Celebrates its Third Millenium start September 12 2007
Our new year is always held on September 11th (or 12th in the case of a leap year).
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First published: August 10, 2007
Grand festivities are cooking for Ethiopians come September 12 2007, when the country celebrates clocking two millennia. Festivals are expected to continue for a full year and will see Ethiopians engage in a cluster of events and participatory projects that are expected to leave a lasting positive international image of the African country.
The Ethiopian Millennium Festival National Council, (EMFNC) has been established to lead the organization of the festivities that will run from September 2007 to September 2008. Celebrations are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians in the Diaspora, other nationals of Ethiopian descent as well as visitors from different countries of the world to Ethiopia. For this reason, committees to help organise celebrations have been set up in different countries, including Uganda in order to create awareness about the millennium and to help Ethiopians return to their home during the year and to promote the country.
Convergence in Ethiopia
The Government of Ethiopia is urging all its nationals and people of Ethiopian descent all over the world to make a trip back to Ethiopia within the year to celebrate with fellow nationals and express their solidarity with the country's aspirations for better development. These aspirations, the organizers say, will be the cornerstone of the celebrations. "The national programme will give everyone in Ethiopia the opportunity to participate in projects that will make a lasting difference to our society. Projects are wide ranging, encourage creativity, innovation and participation, and renew our sense of community. The social legacy of the national programme in education, the environment, the arts, sport and heritage will be felt for years to come - a reminder to future generations that the start of the third millennium was a time when Ethiopians committed themselves to making a difference to all walks of life," EMFNC says in a release announcing the celebrations.
Why start on September 12 2007?
According to Amdemichael Tekle, the Ethiopian Counsellor to Uganda, the Ethiopian calendar is 7 to 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar that most of the world follows. "In Ethiopia, we are now in 1999. Our new year is always held on September 11th (or 12th in the case of a leap year). We shall therefore celebrate the year 2000 on September 12th," Amdemichael told Ultimate Media in an interview. Though the Gregorian calendar, a revision of the Julian calendar, is the international standard, many countries and groups (for example Moslems) have separate calendars based on their own astronomical calculations and beliefs.
Amdemichael says New Year celebrations in Ethiopia are a national experience of heritage in tandem with nature. "At the beginning of a new year, the beautiful bright yellow flower, Adey Abeba, always blooms in all parts of Ethiopia, signifying an end to the rain season and the coming of a new year. You can never find this flower at any other time of the year. Children gather that flower and put in their houses. It symbolizes hope," Amdemichael explains.
He adds that the New Year holiday in Ethiopia is one of the moist celebrated, because it is related to the country's rich history and cultures. The 2000 millennium is going to be extra special. "This will be a 12 months long celebration. Not just eating and partying, but a series of development related activities focusing on the environment, health and education," the Ethiopian envoy discloses. He says Ethiopia will also use the millennium celebrations to market the country's historical, tourist and economic potential.
Building on the splendid history of Ethiopia
The EMFNC, through its executive council and secretariat established by the Ethiopian government, is expected to ensure that the nation makes best use of this opportunity to promote Ethiopia, arguably one of the world's most historic countries. Many scholars believe that Ethiopia is the source of civilization. They base this on the country's Lalibela churches dating as far back as the 5th Century BC, the Axumite houses and palaces made of granite as well as traditional relations to both Islam and Christianity. Legend has it that the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik, son of Queen Sheba and King Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum where he established one of the world's longest living, uninterrupted monarchical dynasties. Emperor Haile Selassie, the father of Rastafarians was the last emperor of this dynasty. Because Ethiopia is home to all Rastafarians (at Shashemene, any Rasta can find a home and live permanently), the organizers are expecting to have a lot to offer, not only to Ethiopians but to foreign visitors too.
Half the population of Ethiopia are Moslems.
Ethiopia, which is estimated to be populated 50% by Moslems and 50% by Christians, was also the first country to welcome Islam when Prophet Mohammed's relatives (including his three wives and children), who were being persecuted in Saudi Arabia because of their beliefs, were welcomed into the country.
Some scholars have also referred to Ethiopia as the cradle of humanity. Amdemichael says that Ethiopia is not only famous for its natural environment and distinctive heritage, but for its archeological sites. Lucy (Dinkenesh to Ethiopians), a 3.5 million year old skeleton that is believed to be the oldest human skeleton ever discovered on this planet, was discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 at Hadar.
The rocks at Hadar where Lucy was discovered.
"As you know, Ethiopia was never colonized unlike other African countries. It helped a lot of other African countries in their fight for independence from colonial masters. It was the first African country to defeat a western army (Italian invaders). Addis Abba, Ethiopia's capital is also Africa's capital. It has hosted the offices of the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity) since it was formed," Amdemichael says.
Activities planned for the Ethiopian millennium celebrations
The yearlong celebrations are being held under the theme: "On the move to a prosperous Ethiopia by establishing a politically strong and economically dynamic society".
Amdemichael says the Ethiopian millennium celebrations are significant, not just because the millennium comes once in every 1000 years, but because of the nationally shared hope and commitment that Ethiopians want to kick in with the beginning of the year 2000. "The national committee is coordinating development activities to make the millennium celebrations memorable through working together to bring visible, significant change to the lives of our people and to fight poverty through a collective effort," he emphasizes. This will be achieved through a number of activities throughout the year 2000.
'Wubnesh Ethiopia' (Beautiful Ethiopia): Scheduled for the first week of September 2007, this will see a musical drama produced and staged by the best and brightest in Ethiopia's growing theatre industry. According to the organizers, Wubnesh Ethiopia will also trace the country's chequered past and will attempt to equip, especially the youth, with a vision and determination to move on to the next millennium.
'Our Millennium' - musical extravaganza: To be held on September 11th 2007. This will be the opening ceremony of the celebrations. It will see celebrants enjoy a multiplicity of music and artistic presentations highlighting Ethiopia's cultures, life and aspirations. It will be held in the heart of Addis Ababa, and simultaneously in Ethiopia's regional capitals to set the mood for the yearlong festivities. It will be held under the theme "Celebrating Our Millennium, Hand in Hand".
Coffee Museum: The millennium celebrations are being utilized to hallmark Ethiopia as the birthplace of coffee, one of the world's favorite beverages. On 6th August 2008, a coffee museum will be launched in commemoration of Ethiopia's gift to the world. The state-of-the-art coffee museum will be located in Bonga, southwestern Ethiopia. Visitors will be able to learn the fascinating story of the wild bean (coffee), while indulging in the tasting a variety of Ethiopian coffees.
Exhibitions on Ethiopia's Heritage: For four months from mid-September 2007, three exhibitions will show-case some of Ethiopia's awe-inspiring artifacts and archeological wonders. This will be in addition to highlighting culture, music and food from the over 80 ethnic groups of Ethiopia. "Guests can literally leave their mark as a lasting memory of their millennium visit to the 'Cradle of Mankind Guest Book'," EMFNC adds.
'Africa Week': Because the Ethiopian millennium celebration is recognized by the United Nations and the 8th Regular Summit of the African Union as a "unique, African occasion", a weeklong celebration dubbed the "Africa week" will be held starting May 25th 2008. According EMFNC, the week will be focusing on Ethiopia's commendable record in the continent's history of de-colonization and in her continued pride and pleasure of continuing to host the headquarters of the African Union. Cultural troupes, artists, writers and filmmakers from various African countries are expected to add color to the weeklong festivities. Amdemichael says this week provides an opportunity for other African countries to get involved in Ethiopia's celebrations through engaging in similar projects like planting trees to boost the natural environment, or by each country beautifying its street in Addis Ababa. "Every African country has a road named after it in Addis Ababa. Countries can beautify and decorate these roads or showcase their own cultures and potential on these roads," the envoy says.
Some of the products made in Ethiopia.
'Buy Ethiopian' will be an ongoing event through out the year's celebrations. It is designed to boost local Ethiopian products as well as enhance quality. 'Buy Ethiopian' will also be used to encourage all Ethiopians to wear national attire during millennial events.
A multi-faceted symposium on Ethiopia has also been lined up for the people to discuss and broaden their horizons as an attempt to remember the country's past, experience the present and prepare Ethiopia well for the challenges ahead.
2 Trees for 2000: "By offering a chance to every Ethiopian to plant 2 trees at the close of the second millennium, '2 trees for 2000' is meant to be a symbolic gesture of this generation's firm determination to address Ethiopia's growing environmental hazards caused by deforestation," EMFNC says on www.ethiopia2000.com.
Millennium Parks: The Ethiopian millennium celebrations will see the construction of multi-purpose parks in the capital Addis Ababa and in the regional capitals to serve as focal points for those who wish to relax in the splendor and tranquility of a modern park. According to organizers, the millennium parks will also act as this generation's gift to future generations. The parks with be adorned with indigenous trees, mini-museums, children's playgrounds and refreshment outlets.
Africa Park: Near UN-ECA and Hilton Addis, one of the parks built by Sheik Mohammed Alamudin, designed to beautify the city.
However, before all this begins, residents of Addis Ababa are expected to hit the road with their brooms between 6th and 10th September 2007 for a Keep Addis Clean Campaign to clean the city for visitors expected for the yearlong celebrations. "We would like to make this millennium year memorable by bringing concrete change to Ethiopia. We want to bring all Ethiopians, irrespective of their cultural, political and religious differences together to do things for the good of our country," Amdemichael says.
Public Holidays in Ethiopia
|Jan 7th||Ethiopian Christmas|
|Mar 2nd||Battle of Adowa|
|April 6th||Victory Day|
|May 6th||May Day|
|Sept 11th or 12th||New Year's Day|
|Plus flexible Muslim holidays|
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First published: August 10, 2007
Gerald Businge is a media practitioner and features Editor at Ultimate Media Consult in Uganda. He is a graduate of Mass Communication and several journalism and leadership certificates. He has been a practicing journalist since March 2001 and has worked at The New Vision as features writer, and has written extensively for different newspapers, magazines, newsletters in Uganda and internationally. He currently does fulltime media communication consultancy work as well as writing and editing at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd where he is a founding member and CEO. You can get his attention so long as you are interested in and you are working for a better world.