Yennayer, New Year’s Eve Amazigh

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Probably the closest relative of the Gregorian New Year, the Yennayer amazigh represents one of the liveliest residues in Roman culture in the Mediterranean, so much so that the Berber calendar is directly derived from the Julian one.

Yennayer, the closest relative of the Gregorian New Year

Surely, among those seen so far, the Berber calendar is the one that most resembles the conception of Gregorian time and this both for names and for history. In fact, the parallels between the way of calculating the time of this people and that used by the rest of the world are evident, so as to have a probable origin in common.


Both, in fact, are heirs of the Julian calendar, established in 46 BC, from which they inherited names of the months and calculus. All too evident, for example, the homophonies between Yennayer and January or between June and Yunyu to be considered a simple case; moreover, the calculation of the months is also almost identical, except for the fact that the “plus day” is added at the end of the year and not in February (here called Yebrayer).

The Pahela Baishakh amazigh

Its establishment, however, closely resembles that of the Pahela Baishakh, a Bengali calendar born essentially to collect taxes more efficiently. With the arrival of the Arabs, in fact, the lunar one was immediately introduced, which, however, badly links with the times of agriculture, creating many practical problems for farmers. It is no coincidence that even today this dating is called in Arabic ﻓﻼﺣﻲ fellāḥī “of the peasant” ﻋﺠﻤﻲ or 3ajamī, or “non-Arab”.

A table set for the Yennayer

Precisely for this reason, the Julian calendar was reintroduced, however linking it even more accentuated to the Amazigh ethnic group, in order to make possible its coexistence with the Hijiri, the Islamic calendar. The start date of the year is January 12, the day on which, according to tradition, the Berber king Shoshenq I would have conquered Egypt, the greatest success in the Amazigh military history. Traditionally, traditional dishes are eaten such as couscous with 7 vegetables, and an animal is sacrificed to be offered as a meal to one’s community.

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