zondag 4 april 2010

The Egyptian Easter: Sham El Nissem

 The Franciscan church (built in 1895) near Luxor Temple


In Egypt , the national holiday Sham El Nissem is celebrated widely. Its intent is to bring the family together, eat traditional foods, and enjoy the spring as it quickly approaches. This celebration connects modern day Egyptians with their ancient pasts through rituals celebrated for centuries. These acts also connect Egyptians closely with nature and its blossoming of life during the spring season.

The celebration of the coming of spring is common around the world. Easter is undoubtedly one of the most well known and celebrated of these holidays, but many of its customs are derived from the Egyptian holiday Sham el Nissem. Celebrated for nearly 4500 years now, it's a n ancient Egyptian festivity welcoming the spring season. The name Sham el Nissem literally means, �sniffing the breeze.� It takes place on every Monday that follows the Easter Sunday. The traditional activities include picnicking in scarce grassy areas to smell the spring air, eating traditional foods and coloring the shells of eggs. These traditions link the Egyptians to their history and help them to become more involved with nature. This time of year is important to the Egyptians because the vast amounts of food and water that come from the rainy season, which comes from spring, are like a relief from the desolate arid plain.


Sham el Nissem originated from Ancient Egypt. The name literally means, �sniffing the breeze� which is in reference to enjoying the new spring air. The holiday is connected to fertility rites much like the Christian Easter is. It's based off a sense of Earth's beginning since this marks the start of a new season.

The celebration starts in the early morning. One ritual is breaking open an onion and smelling it. This is something that women ordinarily partake in. Families will join together and paint eggs, typically with watercolor and let them dry in the sun to be eaten later. This is much like the Christian egg-coloring tradition. Families will come out of their homes and travel by foot, boat, or any way they can take in the air as they head northward. They settle on grassy areas and have picnics. The traditional foods are salted fish called fikeesh, colored eggs, termis or lupin seeds, and green onions (Heba Fattee Bizzari 2003).


Sham El Nissem is celebrated strongly today. There are many news articles documenting the weather for that day expressing whether spring is coming late or early. The approaching temperatures for the holiday are also predicted and listed for the attendants of the celebration to take note of. ��the weather is supposed to return to cooler spring-time temps after a three-day semi-heat wave that accompanied the long Sham El-Nessim and Eastern Easter weekend. The weather inspired millions to head for the beaches and parks to spend a nice day� (Tarek Atia 2002). Seeing as though this holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and has recent documentation of millions participating, it's likely to be a surviving holiday.
Sham El Nissem is not extremely complex in its festivities, but it has strength in family togetherness and togetherness of the entire nation. It's also helping to keep one of the oldest civilizations alive through traditions of food and celebration. This holiday is also important with its basis to keep the people of Egypt closer to nature. The name of the holiday meaning to �sniff the breeze� entices the celebrators appreciate the abundance of the rainy season, to be closer to nature, and to enjoy its ever-changing splendor

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