Why I Do not Celebrate Ethiopian New Year Yared Ayicheh

September 11th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Last week a family friend invited me to spend Ethiopian New Years eve at his home. I thought about how to respond to the invitation. Why would I celebrate Ethiopian New Year’s eve?

After thinking about it, I told the friend, “I do not celebrate Ethiopian New Year”. My friend was puzzled at my response. Why was he puzzled? Why did he expect me to celebrate Ethiopian New Year? Just because I am Ethiopian does it mean I will celebrate Ethiopian New Year?

During the months leading to the Ethiopian Millennium celebrations there was an article on the BBC website trying to explain why Ethiopians are seven years behind the rest of the world.

One statement that struck me was the statement made by the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Abuna Paulos said that Ethiopians are “not inclined for any reformations, specially when it comes to religion. They are very much loyal … because of this, they have been isolated to their faith and they have maintained their own traditions.” (1)

Ultra Conservatism

Putting aside political bias against Abuna Paulos, I believe he has made an important observation about Ethiopians that we are indeed resistant to reformation. There is a tendency among many of us to feel that Ethiopia is the nucleus of the world. Our cultural conditioning combined with isolation from the rest of the world has created an egocentric self image for Ethiopians.

For many of us, Ethiopia has been romanticized so much so that we don’t even dare to criticize Ethiopia and anything Ethiopian. We feel Ethiopia is a divine identity that is too sacred to be touched or looked down up on.

Open Minded Ethiopians

When I told my friend that I will not attend his Ethiopian New Year’s eve party he may have been disappointed. I think he did not even expect I would say “I don’t celebrate Ethiopian New Year”. That lack of expectation from him is what pushed me to write this article.

Ethiopians are not identical. There are many Ethiopians that are progressive and radical in their thinking. There are Ethiopians who question the Ethiopian identity itself. I am one of them. I have no allegiance to an identity. I believe everything is open for constructive criticism.

Identity is not solid. Identity can be molded, adjusted, rejected and evolved. It is true that some people are less flexible than others; however, we are all influenced to various degrees by the cultural exposures we experience in Diaspora.

Don’t Ride a Dead Horse, Abandon It

While living in Diaspora I have no reason to try to cling to holidays that do not add value to my life. Why would I need to hold on to something even when it has no emotional value to me!? Letting go of the things I don’t need, and adapting to life in Diaspora not only adds value to my life, but it also makes me healthy – less stress.

The extreme attachment many Ethiopians have to our country is not necessarily out of love for our country, but rather it is a sign of our emotional challenges and struggles to redefine our selves in Diaspora. Perhaps the greatest loss to we immigrants may be trying to hold on to the past thinking it is the present, and not enjoying our life in Diaspora.

My fellow Ethiopians, if you live your life thinking “One day I will go back to Ethiopia”, please remember there is no PAUSE button on life. Live your life to the fullest, this is your life. Embrace your adapted country as your second country, treasure your Ethiopian heritage, and yet, don’t let your memory about Ethiopia hold you back from enjoying your life in Diaspora.

1 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6978629.stm

The writer may be reached at yared_to_the_point@yahoo.com

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