Calendar & Time
Ethiopia has had its own 13-month Julian calendar since biblical times, which happens to be seven or eight years (depending on the month) behind the Gregorian calendar that the Christian West adopted in 1582.
There is also a local system of time. This is based on the concept that the Ethiopian day is constituted of roughly 12 hours of daylight, starting at 6 am, and roughly 12 hours of darkness, starting at 6 pm. Being close to the equator means that day length is very consistent. So 7 am is 1 am Ethiopian time. Airports, large hotels and hospitals run on regular 24-hour clocks.
Urban Ethiopians often use both systems as appropriate. Nevertheless, in general, when asking about dates and times, it is always worth checking which system is being used.
Currency exchange is also an issue. There appears to be no computerisation of exchanges, or computer banking. The ATMs at hotels often do not issue receipts and no more than 200 Birr is to be taken out of the country. The government insists that businesses inspect all receipts for currency exchange from travellers, prior to accepting Birr. Credit cards are not widely accepted.
Mail deliveries in Ethiopia are problematic. Many of the streets in Addis Ababa have more than one name. The street signs, if any, have been largely manufactured in China and after translation are often misspelt. Further, street numbering is confusing, as there are often multiple dwellings on one plot. Consequently the postal system is unreliable, so DRE does not send mail parcels to HFCE. All mail to sponsored children is required to go through DRE.
Festivals and Holidays
Festivals and religious celebrations in Ethiopia are often great and colourful events where everyone enjoys feasting. Important Christian holidays include Christmas or Genna on 7 January, Timkat or Epiphany on 19 January, and Easter or Fasika (lunar dependant, around April). Timkat, which marks Christ’s baptism, is the most colourful event of the year.
The two-day feast of Meskal marks the finding of the True Cross on 27 September. Kidus Yohannes or Enkutatash, New Year’s Day, comes on 11 September, which coincides with the end of the season of heavy rains and the beginning of spring. Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendar and consequently fall at different times each year. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is devoted to Ramadan, which is observed by fasting. The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a feast. The greatest feast of the year is Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday or Mawlid, on 20 September. HFCE children love the festivals as it is one of the few occasions they have the opportunity of eating meat.