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Why Does Ethiopia Have 13 Months in a Year

Why does Ethiopia have 13 months in a year! Uncover the fascinating origin behind this unique calendar system. Find out more now!

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Have you ever wondered why most of the world follows a calendar with 12 months, but Ethiopia has 13? The Ethiopian calendar is quite unique, with 13 months, and it has its own set of traditions and reasons for this difference. From the historical and religious significance to the cultural importance, the Ethiopian calendar holds a special place in the hearts of its people. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind Ethiopia’s 13-month calendar, its origins, and the impact it has on the country’s rich heritage and customs.

Ethiopian calander Why Ethiopian Calendar Is 7 Years Behind

Why does Ethiopia have 13 months in a year?

Ethiopia follows the ancient Coptic calendar, which is closely related to the Julian calendar. This calendar consists of 12 months, each with 30 days, and an additional 13th month called Pagumē, which has 5 days, or 6 days in a leap year. This structure stems from ancient Egyptian and Alexandrian calendars, reflecting Ethiopia’s deep historical roots.

Ethiopia's unique timekeeping

As we explore the whys and wherefores of Ethiopia’s unique chronology, let’s turn the page on our Gregorian calendars and synchronize our watches to a timekeeping tradition that’s as old as the highlands themselves.

A Calendar Like No Other In a digital era where time is fleeting and the months blend into one another, Ethiopia stands with a foot in the past and eyes on the future. This land, rich in history and tradition, counts its days with a calendar that defies the 12-month norm, embracing instead a 13-month framework.

History Of Ethiopian Calendar: Why does ethiopia have a different calendar

Unlike the calendars that govern the West, Ethiopia’s is a living relic, an heirloom that traces its ancestry back to the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Its origin is shrouded in the sands of time, believed to be a direct descendant of the ancient Egyptian method of timekeeping, which was meticulously aligned with the rhythms of the Nile and the celestial dance of the stars. This calendar isn’t just a cycle of days and months; it’s a mosaic of history, religion, and astronomy, artfully interwoven into the fabric of Ethiopian society.

Connection to the Julian calendar

Ethiopian calendar is a sibling of the Julian calendar, a timekeeping system that was once the vanguard of the Roman world. When Julius Caesar commissioned the Julian calendar, he instituted a framework that would influence calendars for generations. As the Gregorian calendar gradually became the standard across the globe, Ethiopia maintained its Julian roots, a choice that encapsulates the nation’s reverence for tradition and its rich, ecclesiastical heritage. This dedication to an ancient calendar has profound implications, not merely in the extra month that it bestows upon the year but also in the cultural and spiritual rhythms that pulse through the heart of Ethiopian life. 

Why did the calendar change from 13 months to 12 Globally?

Globally, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, which has 12 months. The change from a calendar similar to Ethiopia’s to the 12-month Gregorian calendar was not uniform but occurred over centuries, influenced largely by the Roman Empire and later by Christian and Western secular influences. Ethiopia, however, retained its ancient calendar system, which includes the 13 months.

What is Ethiopia's 13-month called?

In Ethiopia’s tapestry of time, there lies an additional month, a unique appendage to the conventional calendar — Pagumē


Pagumē is the crescendo of the Ethiopian calendar, a brief but significant period comprising five days in a typical year and six in a leap year. This aligns the Ethiopian calendar closely with the astronomical solar year.

Cultural Significance

Beyond its astronomical purpose, Pagumē holds a special place in the hearts of Ethiopians. It’s a time of reflection, an interlude before the renewal of Meskerem, the New Year. It’s a time for finalizing plans, for settling debts, and for quiet contemplation before the cycle begins anew.


 It serves as a corrective measure, much like a leap day in the Gregorian system, ensuring the calendar does not drift away from the seasons. Without Pagumē, the calendar would gradually fall out of sync with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Leap Year Variation

In leap years, Pagumē gains an extra day, a recalibration that maintains the precision of Ethiopia’s ancient timekeeping system. This extra day is a subtle nod to the intricate dance between the Earth’s revolutions and the calendar humans have crafted to track them.

The 13-Month Breakdown

The Ethiopian calendar is not merely a method of timekeeping; it’s an intricate lattice that supports the cultural and spiritual framework of the nation. Its twelve months are named and arranged as follows, each holding a unique place in the lives of Ethiopians.

  1. Meskerem (New Year): 11 September – 10 October
  2. Tikimt: 11 October – 9 November
  3. Hidar: 10 November – 9 December
  4. Tahsas: 10 December – 8 January
  5. Tir: 9 January – 7 February
  6. Yakatit : 8 February – 9 March
  7. Maggabit: 10 March – 8 April
  8. Miyazya : 9 April – 8 May
  9. Ginbot: 9 May – 7 June
  10. Sene: 8 June – 7 July
  11. Hamle: 8 July – 6 August
  12. Nehasa: 7 August – 6 September
  13. Pagume: 6 – 10 September

What year is it in Ethiopia in 2023?

As of 2023 in the Gregorian calendar, it would be 2015 or 2016 in the Ethiopian calendar. The exact year depends on the specific month and day, as the Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash) usually falls on September 11th, or September 12th in a leap year.


As we encapsulate our exploration of Ethiopia’s distinctive 13-month calendar, we recognize it as a vibrant testament to Ethiopia’s rich cultural tapestry. This unique system not only diverges from the global norm by its count but also embodies the nation’s enduring legacy and pride. The calendar stands as a poignant symbol of Ethiopia’s dedication to heritage preservation, ensuring that the country’s ancient rhythms of time continue to resonate in the modern era, connecting its people to their historical roots while they stride forward in the global community.

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Most frequent questions and answers

Ethiopia follows a 13-month calendar, which is seven to eight years behind the rest of the world. This calendar has 12 months with 30 days each and a 13th month with 5 or 6 days in a leap year.

The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months, with 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month called Pagumē, which has 5 days in a regular year and 6 days in a leap year. Therefore, in a leap year, the Ethiopian calendar has 366 days. This extra day is added to the 13th month, making it a unique feature of the Ethiopian calendar system.

The 13th month in Ethiopia is called Pagumē.

The Ethiopian calendar is about 7 to 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar because it follows the ancient Ge’ez calendar, which has a different calculation of the year of the Annunciation (the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus). While the Gregorian calendar places this event at 1 AD, the Ethiopian calendar places it about 7 to 8 years later, around the year 7 or 8 AD. This discrepancy results in the Ethiopian calendar being several years behind the Gregorian calendar.

Yes, Ethiopia is eight years behind the rest of the world in terms of the Gregorian calendar.

Yes, the Ethiopian calendar has a leap year every four years, similar to the Gregorian calendar.

All months in the Ethiopian calendar have 30 days each.

The Ethiopian New Year falls on a different date than the Gregorian New Year due to the calendar difference. Ethiopia celebrates its new year on September 11 or 12.

Yes, Ethiopia uses the Coptic calendar for its religious festivals and the Ethiopian New Year, being seven years behind the Gregorian calendar.

Ethiopians are aware of the Gregorian calendar and even use both calendars interchangeably for different purposes.

In the Ethiopian calendar, a year has 13 months, while the Gregorian calendar has 12 months. Additionally, the Ethiopian calendar is 7 to 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar.

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