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Interview with Dr. Getatchew Haile

Senamirmir:   First and foremost, Senamirmir would like to congratulate you on your latest book, Bahre Hassab! Would you mind sharing with us your thoughts about the book?

Dr. Getatchew:   Thank you very much for the congratulations. Christians in general have two types of feasts and fasts, fixed and movable. The fixed ones are observed always at the same time in the year or month, while the movable ones move annually forward or backward. "Bahre Hassab" is, primarily, a mathematical system for fixing the movable feats and fasts of the Ethiopian (and Coptic) Church. A perpetual calendar for the said feasts and fasts is also given in a table of the 532-year cycle. The other content of the book related to the computus is a table that synchronizes the Ethiopian (Julian) Calendar with the Western (Gregorian) Calendar for the years AD 1261 to AD 2316. This particular book of the "Bahre Hassab" has, in addition, annals of the history of Ethiopia from AD 1 to AD 2000, the year the book was published.

Senamirmir:   What led you to write the Bahre Hassab ?

Dr. Getatchew:   I thought of publishing it to fill real needs. As I explained in the introduction to the book, although the system is simple arithmetic, the clergy who know a great deal about Ethiopian education, but not the Bahre Hassab system, feel inferior before the few who know it. I wanted to help them. I wanted to show them how to do the calculation. Second, although the knowledge might be irrelevant to the daily life of many, I thought of connecting mentally the new generation with the past by explaining to them how the liqawint teach it. I thought of doing something instead of wailing on the loss of our traditional education. Books can be teachers if written to be so. Third, providing a "Pocket History" of Ethiopia in the form of chronicles is not of inferior value. "What happened when" is valuable knowledge. I use this book almost daily, already, when I want to know who reigned, who revolved, etc. and when. It is a reference book. Finally, Ethiopians in general, and historians in particular, would like the table for converting the Ethiopian calendar to Western calendar and vice versa. What is the date today in the Ethiopian Calendar? When was Hamle 7, 1904 EC? Any such questions (dealing with any time between 1261 and 2316 EC ) can be answered by the use of the special table given in the book.

Senamirmir:   Is the term "Bahre Hassab" limited to a calendar thought?

Dr. Getatchew:   So far as I know, yes.

Senamirmir:   What makes the Ethiopian Calendar "Ethiopian"?

Dr. Getatchew:   Its adoption and Ethiopianization by incorporating things that are uniquely Ethiopian.

Senamirmir:   Why is the Ethiopian calendar seven years behind the Gregorian Calendar?

Dr. Getatchew:   If such a question is relevant, one can also ask, "Why is the Gregorian calendar seven to eight years ahead of Ethiopian calendars?" Ethiopians have accepted the tradition that Christ was born, as promised, 5500 years after the creation of the world or the fall of Adam, the first man. According to that tradition, this -- the Nativity of Christ -- took place 1993 years ago. Followers of the Gregorian Calendar believe that it took place 2001 years ago. Church historians are more or less in agreement that neither of the two is correct. They tend to agree that Christ was born in 7 BC.

Senamirmir:   Do we live longer because we have 13 month in a year?

Dr. Getatchew:   But of course we do:).

Senamirmir:   Is there any research being done on a calendar system that may have been used prior to the current Ethiopian Calendar?

Dr. Getatchew:   Not to my knowledge. But it is worth researching. With the exception of the 13th month, all the twelve months have Ethiopian names. They might have been adopted from an earlier calendar, which the Julian Calendar has replaced. Ethiopia was a well-established state for centuries before Christ and the appearance of the Julian Calendar. Such a state could not exist without some system for telling the time when the seasons change.

Senamirmir:   You indicated in "Bahre Hassab" that unless something is done, the Ethiopian Calendar will continue to fall further and further behind the Gregorian calendar. What should be the corrective measure?

Dr. Getatchew:   If necessary to correct it, that can be done the way Pope Gregory did. But I do not see any serious need for it. It is really more academic than anything else. Whether the difference is 7 years or more or less it does not matter. The corrective measure that Pope Gregory took was to pin point the exact time of the vernal equinox, that is, the moment when the day and the night are of equal time length. That moment moves every year by a fraction of time. This means that, theoretically, if we do not do the correction at a certain interval, the months could move; e.g., Meskerem could fall when it should be the month of Pagumen. But, so what? We will harvest a little bit earlier.

Senamirmir:   Is there calendar software associated with Bahre Hassab ?

Dr. Getatchew:   There will be one very soon. Ato Amha Asfaw, who designed my book, has prepared one. It will be on the web within a short time, allowing its downloading to people who have a copy of the Bahre Hassab. The software is professionally well done. His (our) problem that delayed the release is the difficult decision on what piece of information to include and what to exclude.

Senamirmir:   If readers want to purchase the book, where can they get more information?

Dr. Getatchew:   Shops frequented by Ethiopians should have it as soon as possible. One can also order it directly from me by sending a personal check or money order (made out to me) in the amount of US$27.95 to:

  P.O. BOX 113
  AVON, MN 56310-0113

Unfortunately, payment has to be in US currency, and the edition is very limited. It could be out of print soon.
Senamirmir Project, 2001