Yennayer, Berbers New Year’s Day

 Yennayer is the New Year’s Day of the agrarian calendar used since antiquity by the Berbers throughout North Africa. They celebrate it from January 12 to 14 of each year, as the start of the Julian calendar. It is shifted of 13 days compared to the Gregorian calendar, and starts on the 14th of each year. Probably as a result of an error of the first cultural associations that advocated the return to this traditional holiday threatened with extinction, the opinion that the traditional date is January 12 is widespread, although  the exact date is January 14.

In some regions, They precede Yennayer with IMENSI N YENNAYER “Yennayer’s dinner” on the eve of the Amazigh New Year. The participants meet and wait, through different events, for the coming of the new year. In France, the inventory of intangible cultural heritage  registered Yennayer since 2020.

Yennayer corresponds to the first day of the agrarian calendar used by the Berbers for several centuries. Yennayer also refers to the beginning of the Julian calendar, adopted in ancient Rome.

The Berber Academy based its decision on the fact that the Berbers used to celebrate Yennayer every year, to declare it as the “Amazigh New Year”. It is Ammar Negadi who put forward a Berber calendar, in 1980, based on a significant event in the history of the Amazigh people, an indisputable historical fact to make it the zero point of the calendar. His choice fell on the year 950 B.C. which corresponds to the date when the Berber king Sheshonq I was enthroned Pharaoh of Egypt and founded the XXIInd dynasty which ruled Egypt until the year 715 B.C. This Berber king had succeeded in unifying Egypt and then invaded the Kingdom of Israel. It is said that he seized the treasures of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem in 926 BC.  The Bible mentioned King Sheshonq under the name of Sesaq and Shishaq in ancient Hebrew.

Yennayer is composed of two Berber words: yan, meaning “the number one”, and ayyur meaning “month”. “yennayer” the first month, others believe that Yennayer is the Berber pronunciation  of January.

A popular Berber etymology would be “the words of the moon” or “the word of the sky”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *