Other than New Year, most Ethiopian celebrations are Christian Muslim religious events. Kiddus Yohannes New Year's Day comes on September 11, which coincides with the end of the season of heavy rains and the beginning of spring. On New Year's eve, people gather around neighbourhood bonfires before visiting friends and relatives to offer them New Year's greetings. On New Year's day people dress in new clothes and celebrate with feasts, visits and games such as gugs.

Important Christian holidays include Meskal, Christmas, Timket and Easter. Timket, which marks Christ's baptism, is the most colourful event of the year. On Timket eve, priests dressed in elaborate robes parade each church's tabot to a body of water. There people hold a nighttime vigil; the priests then bless the water and anoint the faithful. Singing and dancing, crowds parade the tabots back to their churches.

In September, the two-day feast of Meskal marks the finding of the True Cross. Each town builds an enormous bonfire and a cross decorated with flowers. After dark the townspeople encircle the fire three times, singing Meskal hymns. During the day, horsemen parade through the streets wearing lion's-mane or baboon-skin headdresses and carrying shield and spears.

Muslim holidays are based on the lunar calendar and thus fall at different times each year. The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is devoted to Ramadan, which is marked by fasting. The greatest Muslim feast of the year is 'Id Al Fatr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan. The 'Id al Adha is the feast marking Abraham's sacrifice. On these days, after praying and listening to the imam (religious leader) preach, Muslim Ethiopians sacrifice animals and distribute part of the meat to the poor. Wearing new clothes, they visit friends and relatives as well as family graves. Horse races are also traditional on these days. Muslims also celebrate the prophet Mohammed's birthday on September 20 and mark the anniversaries of numerous martyrs.

January 7 Christmas
January 19 Timket
March/April Easter
May 1 May Day
May 2 Patriot's Victory Day
May 28 Downfall of the Derg
June 4 Mouloud, Birth of the Prophet Mohammed
September 11 New Year's Day
September 27, 28 Meskal

  Did you know?
Ethiopians usually do not celebrate their birthdays. Dates of birth are registered only in some urban areas, and many Ethiopians don't ask what day of the year they were born.