Yennayer (Berber New Year) in Algeria Date in the current year: January 12, 2024

Yennayer (Berber New Year) in Algeria On January 12, the Berber population of Algeria celebrates Yennayer, the first day of the new year in the Berber calendar. In 2017, it was added on the list of the country’s public holidays to recognize Berbers as the largest ethnic minority in Algeria.

Berbers (or, how they call themselves, Amazighs) are an ethnic group of several nations that are indigenous to North Africa. Today, they mostly live in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya, and parts of Mali, Niger and Egypt.

Although most Berbers converted to Islam in the 7th century, their calendar is based on the Julian calendar rather than on the Islamic calendar. The zero point of the Berber calendar is the date when the Berber King Shoshenq was enthroned as Pharaoh of Egypt and founded the Bubastite Dynasty that ruled over Egypt for more than two centuries. Because of this, the Berber calendar is 950 years ahead of the Julian and Gregorian calendars: for example, the year 2019 A.D. corresponds to the Berber year 2969.

Since the Berber calendar, just like the Julian calendar it is based on, is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, the Berber New Year falls on January 14 in the Gregorian calendar. However, it is traditionally celebrated on January 13 in Libya, Morocco and the Canary Islands and on January 12 in Algeria.

In December 2017, President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared Yennayer a public holiday. Since Algerian Berbers have been campaigning for cultural autonomy and have sought to get Yennayer proclaimed as a public holiday for a long time, this can be considered an important milestone for them.

“Yennayer” is the name of the first month in the Berber calendar. It is basically the Berber form of the word “January”, cognate with the name of the month in many European languages. The word can be literally translated from the Amazigh language as “month one”: “yenn” stands for “one” and “ayur” stands for “month”.

Traditionally, Berbers celebrate Yennayer with a hearty meal to ensure a prosperous year. It is customary to cook special dishes that are normally reserved for festive occasions, but of course the staple of the Amazigh cuisine, couscous with chicken or seven vegetables, is always present on the holiday table. Besides, each region where Berbers live has its own traditional holiday dishes.

Berbers consider the first day of the new year to be the day of new beginnings. For example, little boys often get their first haircut on this day. Besides, it is considered the first day of the agricultural year. It is also believed that couples which get married during the first month of the year will have a happy marriage.

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