New Year's Day is usually marked on the first day of January, which symbolically signifies the end of a 12-month calendar.
However, Ethiopia's calendar year is different from the rest of the region. It is 13 months long and seven-eight years behind!
The first 12 months have 30 days each and the 13th month has either five or six epagomenal days.
The Ethiopian calendar is top-heavy on biblical narrations and explanations on the difference in the number of years a rich religious heritage.
For instance, the calendar is based on the claim that Jesus Christ was born in 7BC. Other calendars state the birthday as AD1. That difference is why the calendar is seven to eight years behind.
On September 12, Ethiopians marked the end of year 2011 and ushered in 2012. The day is known as Enkukatatash, or "gift of jewels".
Epistemologically, the root of the name Enkukatatash is traced to the Bible. There is an account in the books of First Kings chapters 10 and 11, and Second Chronicles chapter 9.
QUEEN OF SHEBA
Therein is the sojourn of the Queen of Sheba to meet King Solomon in Israel. During the visit, the Queen carried gifts of noble stature.
Among them were four and a half tonnes of gold, which the Bible notes she gifted King Solomon.
Such an amount of gold, even in Solomonic standards, might have dug a hole in Queen Sheba's treasury.
Back in Ethiopia, the chiefs thought so too; upon her return to Ethiopia, they organised to receive her with Enku, or "jewels", to replenish her stock. Since then, we celebrate Enkukatatash by giving gifts to commemorate this gesture.
In the ancient Nile valley, the use of the solar calendar was in vogue. It signified the change of seasons.
Using a metric known as Nilometres, it was observed that River Nile had a tendency to flood to the same height at virtually the same day every year.
The number of days from one flooding season to another was roughly 365.
The start of the flooding season coincided with Enkukatatash. If you have been keeping tabs with the goings-on in the region, you might have read that downstream countries along River Nile started to experience floods during the last week of August.
For Ethio-Kenya diplomatic relations, a forward outlook for 2012 bears positive aspects in all fronts: it boasts a commitment of our leaders towards actualising various elements of bilateral integration.
As a priority for the year, we will focus on actualising our economic, cultural and developmental ties.
As a bona fide alumnus of the University of Nairobi, I can attest to the valuable impact of a people-to-people strengthening.
Our institutions of higher learning are perfect avenues to expand cultural diplomacy via student exchange.
During her recent visit to Addis Ababa, Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma and her Ethiopian counterpart Gedu Andargachew affirmed their commitment to actualising the student exchange programme.
To re-scope the gains made in the past year, we will expedite momentum in four areas: expansion of the economy, including the service sector; infrastructure completion; exchange programme for university students, and regional stability.
On the other hand, regional challenges of insatiability remain a thorny issue for both countries.
As the anchors of peace in the east African region, the role of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Uhuru Kenyatta will continue to play a greater role in actualising peace. Prosperity for one is prosperity for all.
Happy New Year 2012 to you!
Mr Alem is the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya.