Yennayer


On 12th January, all the Berber populations of the North Africa celebrate the Berber New Year known as Yennayer 2967, as the first day of the month Yennayer. The year Amazigh or Yennayer, this old custom which has resisted centuries is celebrated today throughout the national territory. What does Yennayer mean?

   The Amazighs, like all the peoples of the world, needed a timetable to manage time and organize their lives. As the other civilizations in the world (Russian, Chinese, Irish and Arabic etc.), the Imazighen (the kabyle people) had their own ancient calendar, based both on the changes of seasons and the crucial moments in agriculture. Yennayer is therefore the first month of the year in the Amazigh calendar. The first day (Amenzou Yennayer) of the Amazigh is the day of the year which coincides with the 12 of January of the Gregorian calendar. Etymologically, the word Yennayer is formed of '' Yen '' which means first and '' Ayer '' which means month.

  The history of the Berbers dates back to 10,000 years before Christ. Yet it was only in the time of ancient Egypt that the year zero of the Berber calendar was fixed. It corresponds to the date when king Chachnaq 1st (Sheshonk) was enthroned pharaoh of Egypt. This Berber king had succeeded in unifying Egypt and then invading Palestine. It is said of him that he took the treasures of the temple of Solomon at Jerusalem. This date is mentioned in the Bible and constitutes by this, the first date of the Berber history on a written support: The history of Chachnaq.

     For the Imazighen, Yennayer is a first door that opens on the new year and called 'tabburt useggwass' (the gate of the year). Its celebration is explained by the importance accorded to the rites and superstitions of the period, some of which still exist today. The period in question attracts particular attention because the season corresponds to the approach of the breakdown of provisions kept for the winter. It is therefore necessary to renew his spiritual strength by appealing to rites. At this time of year, the rite must symbolize wealth. Thus, for the new year begun to be more fruitful and the land more fertile, it is necessary to purify and clean the place. We also obey ritual laws such as the sacrifice of an animal (Asfel) on the threshold of the year, as we still do today on the foundations of a new building. The Asfel ritual symbolizes the expulsion of evil forces and spirits to make way for the beneficial spirits that will sustain us throughout the year. 

   The New Year is often characterized by the way of celebrating and welcoming it. It is conceived as a renewal, an initiation into a new temporal cycle. It is designated by various terms such as Id 'n Yennayer (the night of January). The meal, prepared for this famous celebration, is quite lush and different from the everyday.In the Kabylia region of Algeria, and even in most of the states of the country, they prepare couscous with dry meat (ashedluh) or chicken and seven vegetables.They add the preparation of donuts (lesfenj) or pancakes (tighrifine). So the whole family meets around this dish to celebrate the New Year.In some areas, the Yennayer celebration lasts up to three days. Each day they prepare a different dish: on the first day they prepare the porridge, on the second day the couscous with the seven vegetables, and on the third day, they prepare chicken.
Assegass Amegass Iy-Mazighen (Happy New Year to all Berbers). 

written by ARAB Sabrina

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