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Happy Sham El-Nessim! What is Sham El-Nessim and How is it celebrated

Edited by: Yara Sameh

Sham El-Nessim in Egypt، is a national holiday . It is celebrated by Egyptians of all religions as it is based on a spring festival that predates both Christianity and Islam، office holidays reported.

Sham El-Nessim can be dated back to ancient Egypt to at least 2700 BCE and is a festival that celebrates the arrival of Spring.

Ancient Egyptians celebrated the holiday at the spring equinox، the date of which، in Cairo، could be calculated by observing the direction of the sunlight at sunrise over the Giza pyramids.

The changing of the seasons and in particular the effect on the Nile would have been important events in the life of all Egyptians، and the close and start of prosperous agricultural seasons would have been a key celebration.

Sham El-Nessim، translates from Arabic as ‘smelling the breeze’، though this is a nice sound a like coincidence as the name of the festival comes from the Egyptian name for the harvest season – ‘Shamo’ meaning renewal of life.

In many parts of the world، the adoption of farming and agriculture meant that knowing when spring had arrived with the Vernal Equinox، became important knowledge. Thousands of years ago، the equinox was closely aligned with the sun rising in the Zodiacal sign of Aries. Over the centuries، the slow wobble of the earth on its axis (procession) has meant that change in the sun has moved behind that of the equinox، but stills forms the date for the new year and harvest festivals in many parts of Asia. Some countries (such as those in central Asia) stayed with the vernal equinox (Novruz)، some followed the sun (Songkran) and others (Easter) switched to accommodate Christianity like Sham El-Nessim.

When Egypt became a mainly Christian country under the rule of the Roman Empire، rather than replace existing festivals، Shamo was simply integrated into the Christian Easter celebrations.

When Egypt then became a predominately Arab country، the holiday gained the name ‘Sham El-Nessim’، which means ‘smelling the breeze’. It stayed on its Easter date as that is based on a Lunar cycle like most Muslim festivals.

Due to the pleasant weather at this time of year، the holiday is often celebrated by families with a trip to the park.

The dish most closely associated with Sham El-Nessim is Feseekh، salted fish eaten with spring onions. Like many other Spring festivals، eggs (as symbols of rebirth) are a key part of Sham El-Nessim celebrations. Apart from the painting and decorating of eggs، one custom is the writing of wishes on eggs، and them hanging them in baskets from trees and houses، in the hope the gods would answer the wishes.

How different cultures celebrate 
 

America
In America، Easter means church services، Easter egg hunts، and baskets full of candy. Here’s how other countries celebrate the holiday، reader’s digest magazine reported.

France
French children don’t get treats from the Easter bunny; they get them from the Easter bells. According to Catholic teaching، no church bells can ring between Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil، on account of the solemnity of the days around Jesus’s death. Eventually، a legend evolved that said the church bells weren’t rung because they grew wings and flew to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. Then they returned Easter day with chocolate and presents for local kids. Everyone in the world should know these French phrases.

India
Even though Christians only make up 2.5 percent of India’s population، they still have elaborate Easter festivities، especially in the northeastern states. The western India state Goa celebrates with carnivals، complete with street plays، songs، and dances. People exchange chocolates، flowers، and colorful lanterns as gifts.

Italy
On Pasqua (“Easter” in Italian)، residents of Florence celebrate a 350-year-old tradition called scoppio del carro، which means “explosion of the cart.” A centuries-old cart is loaded with fireworks and pulled in front of the Duomo، where spectators watch the pyrotechnics go off. It’s meant to be a sign of peace and a good year ahead. South of Florence is the town Panicale، where the big celebration happens the day after Easter (called Pasquetta، or little Easter). Locals gather for the annual Ruzzolone، a competition that involves rolling huge wheels of Ruzzola cheese around the perimeter of the village.

Poland
The day before Easter، families prepare a “blessing basket.” It’s filled with colored eggs، sausages، bread، and other important food and taken to church to be blessed. In Polish culture، Lent isn’t over until a priest blesses this basket. Like their Italian neighbors، the Polish save their most notable tradition for the day after Easter: Smigus Dyngus. Young boys try to get girls (and each other) wet with water guns، buckets of water، and any other means they can think of. Legend has it that girls who get soaked will marry within the year. Make these 19 homemade egg dyes part of your Easter traditions.

Australia
Some Australian kids are visited by the Easter Bunny، but rabbits are considered pests because they destroy the land. (Come on، Australia—They’re so cuddly!) So some Australians associate Easter with a different animal. In 1991، the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation started a campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby. Bilbies have big، soft ears like rabbits and long noses like mice، and they’re endangered، another reason for publicity around the campaign. (Did you know these animals were endangered، too?) There’s also the Sydney Royal Easter Show، the largest annual event in the country. Farming communities showcase their crops and livestock، and urban dwellers get to experience a slice of rural life. The two-week show (always spanning over Easter weekend) also includes rides and the Sydney Royal Rodeo.

Latin America
Many Latin American countries، Brazil، and certain regions of Spain participate in The Burning of Judas. Residents make an effigy (or multiple effigies) of Judas، the apostle who betrayed Jesus، and burn it in a central location. Sometimes، people make the effigy explode with fireworks.

Spain
The town of Verges commemorates Holy Thursday with the Dansa de la Mort (Death Dance). During this night procession، participants dress up like skeletons and reenact scenes from the Passion. The last skeletons in the parade carry a box of ashes with them. On the other side of the country، residents of Almaden de la Plata have a custom of placing straw effigies of famous people around the city (similar to The Burning of Judas)، then tearing them up and throwing the pieces in the air. Learn these words before traveling to a Spanish-speaking country.

United Kingdom
Many communities in England have Easter performances of Morris dancing، a traditional type of folk dance dating back to the Middle Ages. Men dress up، wearing hats and bells around their ankles، and wave ribbons while dancing through the streets. It’s believed that the dances drive the spirits of winter away and bring good luck. Another famous Easter tradition (recognized around the world) is egg jarping. Two players smash hard-boiled eggs together، and whoever has the egg that’s still intact is the winner. (These are the official jarping rules.) The World Jarping Championships are held each Easter in Durham، England.

Greece
The island of Corfu gets pretty messy on the morning of Holy Saturday. Residents take part in the annual “Pot Throwing،” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. They throw pots، pans، and other earthenware out of windows. Since the tradition marks the beginning of spring، it’s supposed to symbolize the new crops that will be gathered in new pots. But it’s on a different Greek island، Ikaria، where people forget to die.

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