Monday, September 10, 2007

Good Bye 1999, Hello 2000?

In a previous post I have advocated that Ethiopia is better off adopting the Gregorian calendar, the de facto world calendar, since it is obvious that the current Ethiopian calendar does not offer any advantages, other than its sentimental value for some, and since there is nothing to be gained by clinging to a calendar that is 7 years and 8 months behind the rest of the world. Isn't it time for Ethiopia to switch to the Gregorian calendar and join the rest of the world?


tobian said...

why would it be wrong not to maintain something of sentimental value? :-)

I don't care much for the whole y2k all over again hoopla, but i rather like the calender ;)

Anonymous said...

Why don't we have our Calander ?
Dear Enset:

I will like to join the world for democarty, and Humanbiengs value.
You advocate today to use the european calander, as it is used by rest of the world. will you then also advocate to have the same relgion, while most of the ppl. believe in it.

as you know, for International corrospndences, business and so on, the european calander has been used and is going to be used.

enset said...


Nothing wrong with being sentimental. But I consider the continued use of the Ethiopian calendar, a calendar that does not offer any practical advantages over the Gregorian one, for official purposes based on sentimental reasons as a sign of weakness in Ethiopia's national character.


Anonymous said...

It's highly impractical for the Japanese to insist on using Japanese everywhere, including in the technical domain, yet they have and continue to do so. Much easier to teach students English from an early age and have a population unburdened from Japanese keyboards and ready to profit from easily conversing with the outside world.

Compared to this, the calendar is no big deal. Forms in Amharic and English... dates in Amharic and English... calendars in Amharic and English. It's not very inconvenient.

Why is tradition important? The economist Robert Solow once said:

"Over the long term, places with strong, distinctive identities are more likely to prosper than places without them. Every place must identify its strongest most distinctive features and develop them or run the risk of being all things to all persons and nothing special to any..."

enset said...

Hi Gooch,

With all due respect, the Japanese writing system example you gave does not lend itself for a logical comparison with the Ethiopian calendar issue we are discussing here. It would have been a great example if, for instance, I had advocated the replacement Geez alphabets with Latin alphabets. As a regular reader of this blog, I am sure you are aware that I am a big proponent of all Ethiopian languages using Geez alphabets for writing (not a forced use, of course).

I agree that the usage of the "Ethiopian" calendar is not a big deal when compared to the desirability of using our own writing systems, but I believe its continued use is an inconvenience for Ethiopians and I see it as an issue which has the potential to create unnecessary schism between various Ethiopian communities.

I actually like the quote you brought to our attention because it helps drive the point I am trying to make: since the Ethiopian calendar is not Ethiopian in its origins, we should not allow Ethiopia to be strongly identified with it. Besides, this calendar does not have any advantages over the other calendars out there.

Many other countries, countries which are not any less proud of their traditions than Ethiopia, have made the switch to the Gregorian calendar. See this web site for a run down of when some countries changed their calendar from from Julian to Gregorian. I think this year or the next year is the most opportune time for Ethiopia to make the switch. I have not yet seen any compelling argument for a continued official use of the current calendar.


Anonymous said...

Dear Southerner.

To be franc the issue of changing the Ethiopian calendar to European doesn’t give an iota of advantage from cultural or what ever advantage you claimed we get. Our calendar is well enshrined into our way of life when it comes to measuring time. Changing for the sake of change is some what opportunistic and ill thought action.

What is your reasoning of changing the calendar will be good apart from saying our calendar is behind 7 years and it may create a divisions between the ethnic groups. I honestly can’t see how you end up to this idea of schismatic concern. Is this to say that the current Ethiopian calendar favours one grope of Ethiopians?? Strange if this is the case

There are so many things we need to change in our country not the calendar. We need to change how we govern our self. We need to change our work ethics. We need to change how we do farming. We need to give urgency to education in our country. We need to change feeling of animosity between the different political views and learn political tolerance.

May be you are playing the “devils’ advocate”, which is a game of provoking strange ideas and inviting debate. It is great if that is the case. But doing so repeatedly now and than on one issue is really being the devil itself.

We need visionary ideas that will propel Ethiopia into the future. Just think, think deep to raise issues which of great concern and need be tackled.

Amara Sayent

Anonymous said...

Dear Fikru,

I thought your primary argument was the calendar's inconvenience - that's why I said what I did. I guess we agree that it's not very inconvenient, especially when compared to the use of native languages instead of English.

I don't see any 'potential to create unnecessary schism between various Ethiopian communities'. As far as I know, the calendar is not a major issue for cultural pluralism in Ethiopia. Languages are the major issue - these not only have the potential, but actually have created schisms between various Ethiopian communities. I would say that the idea to use Geez script for all Ethiopian languages (unfortunately) offends many more than the calendar does.

As for the calendar not being native Ethiopian... well, few things are Ethiopian or English or Greek, etc. In most places, especially Ethiopia, where there's been a lot of interaction, there are very few truly indigenous institutions or customs. In fact, most things are termed 'indigenous' only once social scientists lack evidence to trace back beyond a certain point.

My argument for keeping the calendar is not emotive - I don't consider changing the calendar a sign of not being 'proud of our tradition'. My argument is that it's best for development to, in such areas, err on the side of tradition. And besides, this tradition, as I explained above, I assume is one of the least inconvenient and uncontroversial of our traditions.

Having said all this, the calendar issue is not, for me, a huge deal. If enough people want it changed, then it should be changed, and when it is, I don't think it will spell the end of Ethiopia!! (Same democracy applies for official languages, but this is of course a much bigger deal.)

But like anything else, I think the reasons should be clear and logical, so we understand exactly why we want to do what we want to do.

enset said...


This calendar thing is not also a big deal for me; there are far more serious issues like the issue of official languages, which you mentioned, and many others that have already created schisms among Ethiopia's many communities as you correctly pointed out. This calendar issue does not show as a big blimp on the radar screen of problematic issues we have to deal with now and it may never be a big issue. As I said in response to a comment in the earlier post on this topic, I am only taking advantage of the millennium celebration to talk about this issue.

I agree with you about erring on the side of tradition, but let me ask you a rhetorical question, if you will. Why is Ethiopia the only nation in the whole world which refuses to adopt the Gregorian calendar for official use? Could it be because there is still no clear separation between the church (the Orthodox Church) and the state in Ethiopia?

To the Amara fellow before Gooch:

You asked me if I was playing the devil's advocate for the sake of making people think. No, I am not doing that here. If and when I play the role of the devil's advocate, I will say so up front as I am not fond of playing mind games. This is something I really believe as is every thing else I talk about on this blog.


Anonymous said...


It is precisely because it is no big deal that I think it should be maintained, if only as a way of cheaply placating 'traditionalist' segments of the population. By changing it, I think we'll make a lot of people angry and few people happy, while keeping it keeps many happy and angers few.

If I may answer your rhetorical question, I think there are many reasons the Coptic/Ethiopian calendar is still in official use: 1) It's a tradition with relatively insignificant opposition, 2) There's been no major movement against it, 3) Its inconvenience has never been strongly felt because Ethiopia's government and business links with the outside world remain minimal.

I don't think it has anything to do with the relationship between Church and State presently, which for decades have been officially separated. Of course, the calendar came from the Church in an era where Church and State were one, as did the Julian and Gregorian calendars and most institutions throughout the world, but this has no relevance today.

Thanks for bringing the issue up, Fikru - I think it's gotten all of us to think about why such institutions exist.

Anonymous said...

I am in full agreement with Amara Sayent.
Furthermore we don't have to rush and emnbrace everything western. I like the 12 month with evenly divided 30 days approach and the additional 4/6 days of leap year.It simply serves just fine. If the socalled western reformed Gregorian calander is heavly scrutnized,I am quite sure there are huge deficencies (go back and reread the many Y2K arguments)

Eritreans have adopted the more popular western calander and aided with thousands of kilometes inviting sea front are unable to do a single business. Their economy remain in total sham. More than a calander the language/character, skilled man power and mind set of a nation makes or breaks how successful a country will remain.
what do you think the Ormos have gotten by switching their writting systems from Amharic to Latin? Answer: more headache!

finally, I say leave my calanders alone!

Anonymous said...

Today you're asking to change the Ethiopian calander, Tomorrow you will be asking to change the existance of Ethiopia and her people, watch what you're asking for!

Anonymous said...


Where is the love for mother Ethiopia? You are a European in an Ethiopian skin. Respect your tradition, dude.

enset said...

My short answer to the question of the last anonymous commentator is: Gebrehiwot Baykedagn.

If you do not know who Mr. Baykedagn was, he is an Ethiopian intellectual from the early 20th century. He was one of the so-called Japanizers who attempted, in vain, to enlighten Ethiopia's ruling elite. Unfortunately, he was not listened to and was ridiculed as being a Eurocentrist. Europe and the West did not get to where they are by being close-minded; they adopted and continue to adopt knowledge from all over the world, including Ethiopia.

If you have read my exchanges with Gooch, you would know that I have respect to tradition. But I know and you know that there is a lot of tradition in Ethiopia that we need to get rid of if we want Ethiopia to be a prosperous nation. As I have agreed with Gooch, this calendar issue is not such a big deal. But I see it as a symbol of Ethiopia's backwardness, as a sign that Ethiopians, as a people, are still very reluctant to adopting new ideas.

I believe Gebrehiwot Baykedagn loved his country or else he would not have spent countless hours writing articles with the hope of inspiring Ethiopians to do better. I am no Gebrehiwot Baykedagn, but I see myself in the same mold. Even though I am now a US citizen, I still I love that land I was born in and I will continue to speak my mind with the hope that these ideas will encourage Ethiopian citizens to be bold and open themselves up to new ideas that could benefit their nation.


tobian said...

Hmm, Fikru, that's an interesting perspective. I'm afraid I'm with Gooch on this one. I guess I've never found the calender impeding me in any way. For most things that require a western calender, like computers, for example, we pretty much use the western calender. However, this is because we don't have a strong economy to support a serious need for IT development in Ethiopia. If there was a need for it and we had Ethiopians working on Ethiopian products, it would not take that much effort to integrate both calenders into one system at all. Besides electronic transactions, to be honest I don't see why the world has to know what month or day it is in Ethiopia. The world doesn't care, and I sure don't care that the world doesn't care. Every 100 years we'll keep reminding them, 'yXk again!' - and hey, if we go by our current record, that may be a rare positive(neutral?) headline we'll have.

Of sentimental value, although I've not lived in Ethiopia for many years, I still think of my 'new' year as starting in September. That used to be easy when I was still in school - I blamed it on the academic year. Now I just have a prepared blurb about how my mind is stuck on a different calender ... and it doesn't bother me, it hasn't bothered my audience.

Besides I can't imagine starting my new year in Tahsas. Meskerem is the end of the rainy season (well, wherever there's rain :) ... like a clean start!

Oh, and one more thing ... last weeks of Tahsas will be the fasting season for both Ethiopian Orthodox followers and Muslims. Give them new new-year during tsom and you'll have 80% of that country pissed off at you ;)

Fine, call it sentimental ...

tobian said...

... or every more like 1000 years.

Anonymous said...

Hello Fikru,

I see the Ethiopian calander as more convenient compared to the Grigorian. Equaly divided 30 days in each month. The year starting in september and ending in Quagme. New year is new schooling year too, unlike in the west (you don`t have to write 2007/2008 acadamic year-you just write 2000 Academic year). New year starts with new season. You start your day with 1:00 in the morning and end the day with 12:00; the same way the night starts 1:00 and ends 12:00 in the early morning. You don`t start 1:00 in the middle of the day and in the middle of the night...Scientists may see it differently. But I am discussing convenience. It is more convenient.

More importantly, I think, it`s become one of the many Ethiopian- identity defining factors.

One final question to you. Why didn`t you change your name from Fikru to say Smith-one more popular and well accepted name in America?

Anonymous said...

In the final analysis, as expected the overwhelming response to Fikrus unwarranted assult on our national pride is a resounding NO. His call for confirmation to western standards was dismissed and rejected. Perhaps this is a good wake up call to genuine Ethiopians that the process of Ethiopianizing the southern frontier although stalled buy Woyanes remains of paramount national interest for years to come. The challenge must be faced head on by our up and coming leaders.

enset said...

You said: "the process of Ethiopianizing the southern frontier although stalled buy Woyanes remains of paramount national interest for years to come"... tell this to Ogadenis.

They do not think the process of Amharization/Tigrainization of Ethiopia is not stalled a bit. I do think that northern Ethiopians, as originators of most of Ethiopia's misery, are the ones that need to be Ethiopianized if Ethiopia is to remain united.

As to the "Ethiopian" calendar, I am sure it will loose its official status within our life time. So, enjoy it while it lasts.