I remember reading some years ago about how Ethiopia follows the old Julian calendar instead of the revised Gregorian calendar. The whole reason the rest of the world switched was because the Julian calendar was over the years getting more and more out of sync with the seasons. Anyway, I think Ethiopia was about 13 years out of sync with the rest of the world.
Is this true? If so, why is it so? Any chances of them changing? Will there be exciting millenium celebrations in another decade?
Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, which consists of twelve months of thirty days each and a thirteenth month of five days, six days in a leap year. (Hence, the popular Ethiopian Tourism Commission slogan of “Thirteen Months of Sunshine!”). The calendar is about eight years behind the Western (Gregorian) calendar. The Ethiopian New Year begins on the first day of the month of Meskerem, which falls on September 11th on the Gregorian calendar.
OK, whether Ethiopia is counting the Anno Domini from a different year (which is entirely plausible) has nothing, nada, zip to do with using the Julian calendar. Furthermore, if their 1st month is Meskerem, in the fall, then they’re not using Julius’s calendar–in which the first month is January, in the winter.
Now, if they don’t lose three leap days every 400 years, their dates will progress out of sync with the tropical year–by 3 days every 400 years. The classic Julian calendar (used by the Orthodox Church) is now 13 days out of sync with the Gregorian reform (the form of the Julian calendar we use in the West).
It’s unfortunate that a lot of references call the Ethiopian calendar a “variant of the Julian calendar” or some such thing. It’s misleading. What they really are getting at is that Ethiopia still uses a simple “every 4 years” leap year rule like the Julian calendar, and will be synched with it. The actual structure of the months is quite different than what “Julian Calendar” is normally taken to mean, and, as observed, their base year is different.
Where on earth did this writer get that from? The Hebrew calendar uses a completely different structure: 12 lunar months, with a 13th month added every two or three years to keep it roughly in sync with the solar year - and no “uncounted” days. (And while the first day of the seventh month is indeed a Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah, there’s no rule that it has to be on “a weekly sabbath.”)
The problem with the Julian system of leap years is that it assumes the year is exactly 365.25 days long, when it is actually slightly less than that. Over a period of centuries the discrepancy acculates until the months are out of sync with the seasons.
The ten days deleted in 1582 accounted for the difference between the two leap year systems up to that time. England didn’t switch to the Gregorian system until the 1700s, by which time the discrepancy was 11 days. At present, the difference is 13 days, which accounts for the difference from the Russian Orthodox calendar.