Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
December 11, 2023

HEES parties like it's 2004 at Ethiopian New Year Celebration

By Stephanie Huie | September 14, 2011

The Hopkins Ethiopian and Eritrean Society (HEES) celebrated the Ethiopian New Year on Saturday in the Levering Great Hall.

The green, red and yellow decorated event consisted of a description of the cultural celebration, an Ethiopian dinner and dance. The actual New Year's Day was September 11, but out of respect for the solemn significance of the date in the United States, HEES chose to observe the holiday the evening before.

Ethiopians follow the Ge'ez calendar system, which is seven to eight years behind the traditional Gregorian calendar that the United States follows. Therefore, HEES was celebrating the year 2004.

"There's nothing different between the American and Ethiopian New Year celebrations. The only major difference is we use a different calendar system," freshman Simon Ammanuel said.

The event detailed many aspects of Ethiopian culture and history, as well as their distinct New Year traditions. These facts gave insight into how another nation welcomes in a new season.

Hilena Addis, Vice President of HEES began with a brief history of the celebrations. The other officers, President Tirsit Makonnen, Treasurer Nardos Makonnen, Secretary Samrie Beshah and Office of Multicultural Affairs Representative Rebka Tekeste followed.

Dinner, the main event of the night, was served soon after.

"I wanted to come to the New Year's Festival to support my fellow Ethiopians, and I was definitely looking forward to the food," Freshman Sami Kebede said.

Several Ethiopian dishes were served to a hungry crowd.

The attendees were reminded to scoop up the foods with the spongy bread, Injera. The bread is made with grain, teff, which is only found in Ethiopia.

The menu included another bread called Dabo, a carrot and peas platter Fasolia, greens called Gonen, tomato salad, a spicy lentil dish Misir, a non-spicy lentil dish Kik, and lamb stew called Tibs.

"I wanted to celebrate the Ethiopian New Year with my new Ethiopian friends, and I was looking forward to the food too. The lamb was great," Stacey Hall, a freshman, said.

Raffles were also sold. Those along with donations went to famine relief in Somalia.

The prizes for the winners were two photographs of significant Ethiopian landmarks.

One photo was of a castle Fasilides. The other was a photo of a church Lalibela.

The event took months of planning by the executive board, made up of the officers and the OMA representative, to orchestrate.

"We recruited freshman to try and get them more involved," said Vice-President Hilena Addis. "We had them get involved with decorating, acting as ushers, demonstrating dances. That way they could see what it takes to put forward such an event for the future."

This year was the biggest freshman class of Ethiopians ever.

"In total now, we have eleven Ethiopians on campus, which I believe is a record," Kebede said.

Outside of Ethiopia, the Maryland, Virginia and the D.C. areas has the highest Ethiopian-American population.        

"The purpose of the event was to give the Hopkins community an experience of Ethiopian culture," Vice-President Addis said. "We were trying to educate the campus about our culture, while celebrating the New Year.

"Africa is usually generalized as one place. However, Ethiopia is very unique.

Each country in Africa has its own identity, and we just wanted to bring ours forward to show our distinctive traditions.

"We hope Hopkins and others can appreciate the Ethiopian culture."

On New Year's Eve, neighbors and relatives get together around a bonfire to sing and eat food.

The actual day sees religious gatherings and church celebrations in the morning.

The true passover ceremony takes place in the home. Coffee is made and the house is surrounded by yellow flowers (Adey Abeba) and grass. Traditional bread is eaten as well.

Later, girls between the ages of seven to eighteen sing around the neighborhood, blessing the households. In a more westernized fashion, families now also exchange greeting cards.

Various dances that are performed throughout the country were demonstrated.

From the northern part of Ethiopia, there is Eskista, which incorporates the upper body.

The dance Oromo, in which the entire body is used, is from the central area.

Gurage, from the southwest, uses legs mostly.

Finally, from the northernmost part of Ethiopia, Tigre is the dance which consists of mostly neck and shoulders.

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