A very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
We have to wait a while to wish our Ethiopian colleagues and friends a Happy Christmas as Christmas here falls on 7th January. Timings here are out of kilter with the rest of the world. For a start, it is 2011 (seriously!)…if only we felt 7 years younger! Ethiopia uses the Coptic calendar which is similar to the Julian calendar that was replaced in the West over 400 years ago. The difference in years comes down to the claim by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that Christ was born 7 years after the date given by the Roman Catholic Church, and they also supposedly started counting from the Annunciation rather than the birth. There are also 13 months in the year, 12 months of 30 days and one month of 5 days (6 in a leap year every 4 years). Like the Hebrew lunar calendar, the New Year arrives in September (a week long festivity starting 11 September called Meskerem). And the time of day is also odd! By international standards and for those who have business meetings with the outside world, the time here is GMT + 3 hours, but for the 100 million Ethiopians, time is not based on GMT at all. Because Ethiopia is so near the equator, the length of night and day remain the same throughout the year and are roughly set at 12 hours each. Hence, the day is in fact split into two shifts: day time and night time, each of 12 hours. Hour 1 of day time (i.e.1am local time) starts at sunrise, while hour 1 of night time starts at sunset. Once you get used to it, it does actually make a lot of sense! So, if someone says to meet us at 6, we now always ask if they mean European or Ethiopian time. We have been caught out this way, thinking we had the whole day to ourselves when our friends have turned up at the door early in the morning, 6 hours earlier than expected!
All that said, we can safely today wish all of our Western friends a very happy Christmas!