What if we told you there was a way to go back to the year 2016, before all [gestures vaguely at the past seven years] this happened? You could just hop on a plane and find yourself in 2016, ready to warn the world about something terrible, like COVID or Elon Musk's Twitter acquisition.
Well, you can. Sort of. Of course traveling to Ethiopia will not really send you back in time, but it is fairly interesting that the country is currently going through the year 2016.
The calendar the world largely uses today – the Gregorian – has not been standard forever. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar. Prior to this, most of the Roman world and Europe had used the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE.
The Julian was slightly out of sync with the Earth's orbit around the Sun, and as a result the actual equinox (and other events of religious importance) were drifting away from the equinox on the calendar. This made Easter even more difficult to calculate, requiring the switch. The transition was not easy, spanning hundreds of years and requiring countries to lose between 10 and 13 days.
Though most countries in the world now use the Gregorian calendar, there are a few that use other ways of dividing the year. In Ethiopia, there are 13 months – Meskerem, Tikimt, Hidar, Tahsas, Tir, Yakatit, Maggabit, Myazya, Ginbot, Sene, Hamle, Nehasa, and Pagume. Rather than have a hodgepodge of months with 30 days, 31 days, and 28 or 29 days depending on the year, the Ethiopian calendar has 12 months with 30 days each, followed by a final month which has five or six days, depending on whether it's a leap year.
To make arrangements even more difficult with visitors, the time of day is not the same either, being divided into two 12-hour halves that begin at 6:00 am rather than midnight.
But why is it 2016 in Ethiopia? Doesn't that seem weirdly close to our own year to be a coincidence? The answer goes back to 500 CE.
Just like the Gregorian calendar, the Ethiopian calendar is based around the birth of Jesus. In 500 CE, the Catholic Church changed its calculations of when Jesus was born, but the Ethiopian church did not, and as an extra side bonus this places their new year on the Gregorian September 11. Ethiopia – the only country in Africa that was never colonized – continued to use the older calculations (themselves rather arbitrary) and as a result is living in 2016, and hasn't even gone through Brexit yet.