Yennayer in Algeria in 2022

Yennayer in Algeria in 2022
The Amazigh Flag. Amazighs, or Berbers, are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa Image via Office Holidays

  How long until Yennayer?
Yennayer
  Dates of Yennayer in Algeria
2023 Algeria Thu, Jan 12 National Holiday
2022 Algeria Wed, Jan 12 National Holiday
2021 Algeria Tue, Jan 12 National Holiday
2020 Algeria Sun, Jan 12 National Holiday
2019 Algeria Sat, Jan 12 National Holiday
  Summary

Since 2018, a public holiday has been be observed across Algeria to mark Yennayer, the Berber New Year

When is Yennayer?

Yennayer is a public holiday in Algeria on January 12th.

It marks the start of the Berber (Amazigh) New Year. In December 2017, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria announced that Yennayer would henceforth be a paid non-working day across the country on January 12th.

On May 30th 2018, the members of the Council of the Nation (Upper House of Parliament) adopted the bill modifying and complementing the law on public holidays, establishing Yennayer as a paid national holiday.

Although this day is not recognized in Morocco as a national holiday, most Moroccan Berbers will celebrate Amazigh new year and exchange wishes and prayers during this day.

History of Yennayer

Amazigh New Year is filled with dance and songs of love, fertility, and prosperity welcoming the new agrarian year.

The Berber calendar has been in use for many centuries. Its origin is as an agrarian calendar, based around the seasons and agricultural tasks, inspired by the Julian solar calendar.

Yennayer is the Berber word for January. Under the change from Julian to the Gregorian calendar, 12 days were lost, which is why the Berber New Year begins on January 12th.

Some historians say that the calendar dates from the day that King Chachnaq defeated the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III in 950 BC and established a monarchy that ruled from Libya to Egypt.

Yennayer is a day for the Berber community to showcase their rich cultural and artistic heritage. The New Year will be celebrated with communal feasts consisting of traditional meals of couscous and chicken, dancing, playing traditional games, and horse parades.

The Berbers, who refer to themselves as the Amazigh ('free man'), are descendants of North Africa’s pre-Arab inhabitants. About a quarter of the population of Algeria are Berber.

The Amazigh language and culture and the celebration of Yennayer are not unique to Algeria as there are also significant Berber communities in Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Niger. You will even find Berbers in the Canary Islands, in the Egyptian desert and in northern Burkina Faso.

The recognition of the Amazigh New Year with a public holiday is part of an ongoing process to recognise the Amazigh population in Algeria and has been a major claim of the civil rights movement in Algeria since the 1980s.

To mark this new year often called 'called "January Night", a traditional food is orikmen (irkmen), a thick soup made of wheat and dry fava beans. Orikmen is only ever eaten on the first day of the Amazigh New Year. Another popular dish is Tagola, made from corn kernels, argan oil, ghee, and honey cooked and mixed with butter.

The Amazigh people of the southeast prepare couscous for the night of January 12, every year, as a cultural ritual celebrating 'Id Suggas'. Traditionally, they put 'ighs', a seed from dates or "alluz", a piece of almond in couscous.

The person who finds the seed or almond is to be entrusted with the keys of "lakhzin", a room reserved for storing the family’s food, and that person is believed to be ‘blessed’ throughout the whole year. Couscous or seksou in the Berber language was listed in December 2020 as a UNESCO cultural heritage, and is served for the occasion with chicken, sacrificed to welcome a Happy new year.

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