It’s actually both, and I know what you’re thinking: “This Abbie person is CRAZY. The year is definitely 2017.”
You’re undeniably correct, but only in terms of the Gregorian calendar, which is the most widely used calendar internationally. The Gregorian calendar is an adaptation of Julius Caesar’s Julian calendar, which has a fixed year comprised of 365 days, divided between 12 months. However, a myriad of calendars exist and tend to be labeled within the confines of these four categories: lunisolar, solar, lunar, and seasonal.
A lunisolar calendar indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. Most pre-modern calendars fall into this category; Hebrew, Buddhist, and many east Asian calendars are common examples.
A solar calendar indicates the position of the Earth during its orbit around the Sun. The Gregorian calendar is the most famous example of this, but the Egyptian calendar was the earliest recorded instance of a solar calendar.
A lunar calendar is based upon cycles of the moon, with months being identified by new, full, or crescent moons. Lunar calendars are commonly used in the Old World to identify religious holidays like Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic calendar) or Diwali (Hindu calendar).
A seasonal calendar is observed in agrarian societies, tending to rely on environmental changes;
This is where the obscure number 2967 comes into play.
The Amazigh calendar is the agricultural calendar generally used by the indigenous Amazigh people of North Africa. If you choose to explore the hyperlink I fixed on “Amazigh calendar,” you’ll notice that Wikipedia calls it the “Berber calendar.” This wasn’t a mistake on my part; Amazigh and Berber people are the same ethnic group. “Berber” is actually a bit of a racial slur, bestowed upon them by high-and-mighty European conquerers. This group of people prefers to be called “Amazigh” (pronounced “Am-uh-zeer”), which translates to “free people,” or “noble men.” For the entirety of this post, I will refer to them only as “Amazigh people.” Now let’s learn some stuff!
The Amazigh calendar is a seasonal (or agricultural) calendar used to regulate the seasons in terms of crop cycles. Amazigh farmers tend to use it in lieu of the Islamic calendar, which is lunar and not synchronized to the seasons. The first day of this calendar is celebrated around the 12th of January (“Yennayer”), but was once celebrated on the 14th—as per the photo above—supposedly due to administrative mistakes by cultural associations.
In recent years, Morocco’s Amazigh people succeeded in adding their distinct language (called Tamazight) to the constitution. Now, they are pushing for the Amazigh New Year to be recognized as a national holiday. Official recognition or not, Amazigh people never say no to a good time, and it’s not uncommon to witness a whole week of celebration, rather than just one day. I was lucky enough to attend an Amazigh New Year festival in Larache, which consisted mostly of food, music, dancing, talks, more food, and some post-food snacks. Saying it was a great time would be an understatement. It was truly phenomenal.
When I jokingly mentioned that a lot of food was involved in the festivities, I wasn’t REALLY joking. The importance of food is incredibly visceral for the Amazigh people. Families come together for every meal, and this day is a celebration of a new, bountiful year. By cooking makla bzaf (a lot of food), they are thanking god for providing fertile soil and subsequent food for their families. While much of Morocco’s food has Arab influence, Amazigh food is more traditional. I could never do these dishes justice, but I thought I’d give you a little Yennayer food tour. Outsiders like me are fortunate enough to enjoy these foods, but I’ll probably never completely understand their deep-rooted significance.
Meet Naima, the SOLE chef of the smorgasbord pictured above.
She’s a well-known presence in the Larache Amazigh network, and was actually interviewed by a prominent Moroccan news organization called 2M TV.
I told her I wanted to write about her food, and she generously took the time to describe each dish and patiently wait for me to process her Arabic into English.
Side note: Arabic words are not normally written using the Latin alphabet, but Arabic speakers have developed an unofficial alphabet that uses numbers in place of the letters that don’t exist in the Latin alphabet. These letters are included in the names of some of these dishes, and I apologize if they’re difficult to pronounce.
“9” denotes a throaty “K” sound.
“3” denotes a throaty “E” sound.
“7” is kind of a hissy “H” sound.
“Kh” can only be described as a “clearing your throat” sound.
Here’s what Naima made/donated to my stomach:
L-bin (buttermilk) with herbs and olive oil.
Orkimn, a seven grain soup with peppers and carrots. There’s one date pit hidden somewhere in the pot, and if you find it in your bowl, you’ll have good luck.
Berkuks with l-3sl (honey) and smen (bitter herb butter).
Ba9ola (similar to spinach) with sheri7a (dried figs) and khubz (bread).
Sksu m3ashb, or spicy couscous with eggs and dried fruit.
Bisara, a three-bean paste cooked over coals.
Sksu m3a grra, or couscous with pumpkin (my FAVORITE).
A plate of dried fruits, including luz (almonds) and sheri7a (dried figs).
Idernan (Moroccan pancakes with olive oil)
Sksu m3a ker3in, or couscous with garbanzo beans.
M3ashba 9hwa, or spicy coffee.
Accompanying the food was an evening of traditional Amazigh music at a beautiful old theater in Larache. Dinner AND a show!
Yennayer was my first big cultural event in Morocco, and honestly, any subsequent events have some pretty big shoes to fill. I had an amazing time, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the hospitality and patience that Moroccans have for a miskina (poor thing) like me. I’m eager for the next cultural adventure, and if it’s anything like this was, two years are really going to fly by.
P.S. Don’t I look good for a 972-year-old? My secret is sunscreen.