New Year dates in Islamic and Amazigh societies (Katia Djama)

New Year dates in Islamic and Amazigh societies

According to historical and religious calendars


New Year, which is the first day of the year, is celebrated all over the world on January 1st, so it is a standard date based on the Gregorian calendar, which is also considered as a solar calendar. However, there are societies which celebrate this event twice. To be explicit, they celebrate the New Year on January 1st, and also on another date based on their own calendar, that is found either on religion or on history, and this date is named differently. To illustrate this better, Arabic Islamic societies celebrate their New Year according to the date of the migration of their prophet Mohamed from Mecca to Medina in 622AD, since that event is considered a starting point for change, and therefore the starting point of the Islamic calendar. It is called “awwal moharram”, “awwal” in Arabic means “the first” and “moharram” is derived from the word “haram” which means sinful. This date changes each year and moves back ten days, for example in 2017 it was on September 20th, but in 2018 it will be on September 11nd. This is because the Arabic calendar is based on the moon calendar, or also called “hegirien calendar”. The word “hegirian” is derived from “hijra” which means “migration”. Consequently, since it is based on the date of the prophet’s migration, they named it on this event. This calendar is founded on twelve months that consist of twenty nine to thirty days each. Therefore, one hegirian year consists of 354 or 355 days, that it is less than the solar year by about eleven days.  This is the reason of its changing dates each year.

This year, 2018, awwal moharram will be on September 11th, and the higrian year will be 1438.

Next to the Muslim Arabic “awwal moharram” New Year, there is the Amazigh “Yennayer” one. It is also the first day of the year according to the Agrarian calendar which is used by the North African Berbers since the antiquity and still celebrate it on January 12th each year by the Amazigh; the word “Amazigh” means “free people”, in the North African society. This date is constant and does not change based on the solar calendar, contrary to the awwal moharram date that changes and is based on the moon calendar. The Amazigh people, also called “Berbers” are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa, primarily inhabited Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

“Yennayar” has a double connotation. In fact, the word “Yennayar” is the label of the first day of the Amazigh’s year, and also the name of the first month of its calendar, as January is in the Julian calendar.

The origin of Yennayer goes back to the historical event that made the starting point of the Berber calendar. To be explicit, this calendar started in 950 BC which when the Berber king “Chachnaq” defeated the Egyptian pharaoh and succeeded unifying Egypt and found the 22nd Egyptian dynasty. He also invaded Palestine and took over the gold and treasure of Solomon’s Temple.

In 2018, Yennayer was celebrated on January 12th, and its number of years is 2968.

The Amazigh people celebrate the three New Year dates; January 1st because it is a universal date, Yennayer because it is their own date and awwal moharam because they belong to the Muslim Arabic society.


M1 Anglais


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