Coptic New Year
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The Coptic Egyptian Church celebrates the Coptic New Year (Anno Martyrus), or year of the martyrs on the 11th of September.
The Coptic calendar is the ancient Egyptian which is one of twelve 30-day months plus a "small" five-day month or six-day in a leap year. The months retain their ancient Egyptian names which denote the gods and goddesses of the Egyptians, and the year’s three seasons, the inundation, cultivation, and harvest.
The seasons are related to the Nile and the annual agricultural cycle. The Copts chose the year 284AD to mark the beginning of the calendar. It was this year that the seating of Diocletian as Rome’s emperor and the consequent martyrdom of thousands upon thousands of Egypt’s Christians occurred.
Apart from the church celebrations, Copts celebrate the New Year by eating red dates, which are now in season. They believe red symbolizes the martyrs’ blood and the white date heart as the martyrs’ pure hearts.
This year, many of Egypt’s NGOs has been eager to mark the importance of the Coptic New Year or Feast of al-Nairuz. The interest centers on Nairuz as an authentic part of Egyptian heritage and, as such, warrants preservation. The Enlightenment Society held a seminar depicting "Nairuz is a national day for all Egyptians”. The intellectual Bayoumi Qandil explained that ‘nairuz’ originated from the Coptic word ‘T-yar’ou’ meaning rivers, which indicates the new year date coincides with the fullness of the annual inundation of the River Nile. The word later metamorphosed into the Persian ‘nairuz’ meaning new day.
Qandil said it was Egypt’s largely illiterate rural community which preserved the Coptic calendar, since it is very closely connected to their agricultural activity. Arabic or Latin months mean nothing to them, but Tout is the full inundation, Hatour is the month of sowing, Kiyahk is the mid-winter month with the shortest days, Amsheer comes in with its famous windstorms and Ba’ouna with its oppressive summer heat. Popular quotes describe each month in a short rhythmic jingle. Each month is known for a specific produce like the Hatour bananas, Ba’ouna’s honey, Misra grapes, or Kiyahk fish. Qandil stressed the fact that we need to hold on to our authentic Egyptian heritage in order to counter-balance the onslaught of incoming Wahhabi culture.
In a Coptic New Year commemoration, University professor and supervisor at the Supreme Council of Culture, Emad Abu-Ghazi spoke of the manner in which Egyptians, men and women, celebrated the new year in river and garden festivals of song and dance and this should continue to be celebrated.
(Source: St. Takla Haymanout Coptic Orthodox Website)