By Fikru Helebo
Before I go on to my rant I would like to wish all those Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia who will celebrate the Ethiopian millennium a happy millennium Ethiopian New Year! If you can read Amharic, I also would like to encourage you to read this part satirical and seriously polemical piece on the Ethiopian millennium by Mitiku Adisu (though I have differences with his take on emperors Yohannes IV, Minilik II and Haile Selassie I in his concluding remarks). Mitiku pretty much says all that needs to be said about the Ethiopian millennium and I guarantee that you will laugh your heart out!
In a little over two weeks time Ethiopians all over the world (except for some like me) will celebrate the first and the last Ethiopian millennium. Yes, this is the first millennium which is uniquely Ethiopian and, hopefully, if it is left up to people like me, it will be the last uniquely Ethiopian millennium. I am of the opinion that the current calendar should be discarded in favor of the Gregorian calendar which serves as the de facto world calendar. The current Ethiopian calendar is not really Ethiopian in its origins anyway. According to this web site, the Ethiopian calendar is based on the Coptic calendar, which in turn is based on the old Egyptian and Julian calendars.
So, why stick to a calendar that is not Ethiopian in its origins and one which creates unnecessary separation of Ethiopians from the world at large? Besides there are many things that Ethiopians have adopted from the rest of the world for the better. Take, for example, our use of the Arabic numerals (actually Indian numerals) in favor of our own numerals which are used on Ethiopian calendars, like the screen shot for the current month from the Ethiopica Calendar which I posted above.
I am not sure when Ethiopians adopted the use of Arabic numerals, but I am glad we adopted them. The fact that we borrowed Arabic numerals did not bring about the death of our numerals. Ethiopian numerals have not disappeared as evidenced by their continued use in the Bible as well as calendars. The fate of the Ethiopian calendar will also be the same if it is discarded in favor of the Gregorian one: it will not die! The Ethiopian and Eritrean churches will continue to use it, obviously, and this fact alone will ensure that the Ethiopian calendar will survive well into the future if its official use comes to an end as I think it should.
I will not celebrate the Ethiopian millennium because, with the exceptions of the building of the monolithic churches of Lalibela in the 12th and 13th centuries and the Adwa victory over the Italians in the 19th century, there isn't much to celebrate about Ethiopian history of the last millennium. I have no problem with Ethiopians celebrating the Ethiopian millennium, but I am very much turned off by the boisterous atmosphere which surrounds the celebrations, an atmosphere which Mitiku's article captures vividly. In my view, this millennium occasion should have been celebrated in a low key manner in which Ethiopians took the time to reflect on many of our shortcomings!