Yennayer marks the start of the Berber (Amazigh) New Year. In December 2017, the former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria announced that Yennayer would henceforth be a paid non-working day across the country on 12th January.
On 30 May 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
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 12 January.
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.
To mark the new year, a traditional food is orikmen, 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.