It’s all thanks to a series of videos on the app, which explain why it’s actually 2014 in the East African nation.
TikTok’s obsession with Ethiopia actually began in April 2020, when TikTokers were making all kinds of videos about why the year “sucked” so much. One creator, named @jonny_k_27, posted a humorous video in which he explained his “theory.”
At the time he made the video, it was 2012 in Ethiopia. Sarcastically, @jonny_k_27 pointed out that maybe all that talk about the world ending in 2012 was actually referring to a different calendar.
“So when everyone was freaking out about the world ending in 2012,” he said in the video. “Maybe we were talking about the Ethiopian calendar the whole time.”
The video is clearly a joke, but it sparked plenty of questions on the app. Namely, why is it a different year in Ethiopia than in the U.S.?
“They have their own calendar,” Kabeza said. “They have their own date. And I didn’t know this until my Ethiopian auntie told me that. And I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s mad weird.'”
The clip instantly drew millions of views and hundreds of thousands of confused comments. But the answer is actually not that confusing.
Why does Ethiopia use a different calendar?
Ethiopia, like the U.S. and much of the Western world, uses a solar calendar. Also like most Western nations, Ethiopia’s calendar is rooted in Christianity, with year one starting with the birth of Jesus Christ.
However, Ethiopia calculates Jesus’s birth as a different date. Its calendar, called the Ge’ez, places that date close to eight years after the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used calendar in the world.
So what is the date in Ethiopia? At the time this story is being published (April 11, 2022, in Gregorian time), it’s currently the third day of the eighth month of 2014. Ethiopia’s new year begins when it’s September in the U.S.
Beyond the difference in dates, the calendar is fairly similar. The Ge’ez features leap years every four years and 12 equal-size months. Additionally, the Ethiopian calendar adds a 13th month with either five or six days, depending on if it’s a leap year.
In her TikTok, Kabeza implied that the reason for this difference is related to the fact that Ethiopia has never been colonized by Western powers. While that connection is hard to prove, it’s true that Ethiopia is one of the few African countries never fully controlled by a European country. Liberia is often considered to be another example.
Overall, though, Kabeza’s point seemed to be that while time is real, our measurement of it is arbitrary. That fact is evident in the countless other calendars used by other nations and cultures, many of which have extremely different ways of measuring months or years.
“Everything is made up,” Kabeza captioned her post.