Amazigh New Year – Celebrating Yennayer in Morocco
Amazigh New Year

The Amazigh people, also known as Berbers or Imazighen, are an indigenous group that has inhabited North Africa for thousands of years. With a unique language, culture, and traditions, the Amazigh community has managed to maintain its distinct identity despite centuries of foreign influence.

One of the most important events celebrated by the Amazigh people worldwide is the Amazigh New Year, also known as Yennayer. The celebrations usually start on the evening of 12 January and continue until 13 January, which is the actual day of the Amazigh New Year. This occasion is a time to honor their ancestors, celebrate their cultural heritage, and welcome the coming year with joy and optimism.

In this article, we’ll explore the rich history and traditions of the Amazigh New Year and its significance to the Amazigh people. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of the Amazigh community and discover what makes Yennayer such a unique and special occasion.

History of the Amazigh New Year

Amazigh New Year

The history of the Amazigh New Year dates back to ancient times when the Berber people used the agrarian calendar to mark the beginning of the agricultural year. Thus, Yennayer is the first day of the agrarian calendar used by the Amazigh people. The calendar, which was based on the lunar cycle, divided the year into 12 months and was used to determine the appropriate time for planting and harvesting crops.

It is believed to have originated over 2,500 years ago in the North African region of Numidia, which is now Algeria. The Amazigh people, also known as Berbers, were the original inhabitants of North Africa before Arab and European colonization.

Further, the celebration was suppressed during the colonial era, and the Amazigh language and culture were marginalized. However, since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in Amazigh culture and language, and the celebration of Amazigh New Year has become more widespread.

When to celebrate the Amazigh new year?

Amazigh New Year, also known as Yennayer, is celebrated on January 12th of the Gregorian calendar. However, the exact date may vary depending on the region and the community. The festival is celebrated when the agricultural year begins, which coincides with the arrival of spring.

Significance of the Amazigh New Year

The Amazigh New Year is an important cultural and traditional event for the Berber people. It’s a time for the community to come together and celebrate their heritage. The celebration of Yennayer is a way for the Amazigh people to honor their ancestors and pay homage to their cultural identity.

The Amazigh people have faced many challenges throughout history, including oppression and discrimination. The celebration of Yennayer is a way for the Amazigh people to assert their cultural identity and preserve their traditions.

How is Amazigh New Year Celebrated

Amazigh new year Traditional Celebrations

Traditional Celebrations

The celebration of Yennayer is an agricultural celebration, with festivities centered around the celebration of a successful harvest. However, there are some common traditions that are observed by most of them.

Cleaning the House

Cleaning the house is an essential part of the preparations for Yennayer. It’s believed that a clean house is a way to welcome the coming year with positivity and good energy.

Decorating the House

Decorating the house with flowers and traditional Amazigh fabrics is another important tradition. The use of flowers symbolizes the renewal and rebirth of nature, while the fabrics represent the community’s unique identity and cultural heritage.

Traditional Foods and Customs

The new year on January 12th is a time for families and friends to come together and share traditional foods and customs. One of the most popular dishes prepared during this time is couscous, which is a staple of Amazigh cuisine. Other traditional foods include tagine, a slow-cooked stew made with meat and vegetables, and various types of bread.

In addition to food, there are several customs and traditions that are observed during this time of year. One of the most important is cleaning and decorating the house. It’s believed that cleaning the house will rid it of any negative energy and bring good luck for the coming year. Decorating the house with flowers and colorful fabrics is also common during this time.

Lighting Bonfires

Lighting bonfires is a tradition that is observed in some Amazigh communities. The bonfires symbolize the sun and its life-giving energy, and they’re lit as a way to welcome the coming year with warmth and light.

If you’re interested in experiencing the Amazigh culture firsthand, consider exploring Morocco with Great Desert Tours, which offers opportunities to learn about and engage with the country’s diverse cultural traditions.

The Significance of Berber Agricultural Celebrations

The Berber people have a long history of agriculture, and their agricultural traditions are deeply rooted in their culture and way of life. Celebrating Yennayer is a way to honor and pay homage to these traditions.


Berber Agricultural Celebrations

The Amazigh people believe that celebrating the first day of the agrarian year is crucial to set the tone for a prosperous and fruitful year ahead. By celebrating the occasion, the Amazigh people aim to thank their gods for a bountiful harvest and pray for similar fortunes throughout the year.

Celebrating Yennayer in Morocco and Beyond

Since Yennayer is celebrated in various ways across different regions with significant Amazigh populations. These celebrations showcase the diverse cultural heritage of the Amazigh people and their rich history.

yennayer celebration

Amazigh New Year Now a National Holiday in Morocco

Morocco has made a significant step towards cultural diversity and inclusion by recognizing the Amazigh – or Berber – New Year as a national holiday. The move is a testament to the Indigenous group’s tireless efforts to have their calendar recognized, after campaigning for years.

The Moroccan government has been taking concrete steps towards recognizing the Berber language, culture, and traditions, which is an encouraging development. This recognition has been gaining momentum in recent years, as evidenced by the Tafukt festival. This three-day celebration showcases the best of the Amazigh culture and heritage, featuring a parade, traditional music and dance performances, and a market selling Amazigh crafts and foods. It is an excellent opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich culture of the Amazigh people in Morocco.

Meanwhile, in Algeria, the celebrations include a procession of women dressed in traditional clothing and jewelry, singing and dancing in the streets while carrying baskets of flowers and food.

The Amazigh New Year is not limited to North Africa. In France, Amazighs from different parts of the country come together for a parade in Paris, while in Canada, the Amazigh Cultural Association of Montreal organizes a festival with traditional music and dance performances, poetry readings, and a market for traditional crafts and foods.

These festivities serve as a way for the Amazigh people to celebrate their cultural identity and heritage and share their traditions with the world.

What Do Amazigh New Year Celebrations Signify?

Amazigh New Year Celebrations

A Celebration of Prosperity and Longevity

The celebration of Yennayer is a way to usher in the new year with hope and positivity. It is believed that the first day of the Amazigh year sets the tone for the rest of the year and is therefore celebrated with the wish for prosperity and longevity. Beyond the agriculture celebrations and traditions, Yennayer is a time for reflection, making resolutions, and spending time with family and loved ones.

Honoring the Imazighen and Their Culture

Yennayer is more than just a celebration of the new year. It is an occasion to honor the Imazighen and their rich culture, language, and traditions. It is a time for reflection and togetherness, a time to preserve and celebrate the diversity that makes Morocco and the Amazigh people so unique. Celebrating Yennayer gives the Amazigh people a chance to show the world their culture and traditions, which is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most vibrant cultures across North Africa.

Finals Words

The Amazigh New Year is a significant occasion that celebrates the rich culture and traditions of the Amazigh people. It’s a time to honor their ancestors, celebrate their unique identity, and welcome the coming year with joy and optimism.

Through the centuries, the Amazigh people have managed to maintain their distinct identity despite numerous challenges and hardships. The celebration of Yennayer is a testament to their resilience and strength, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving and celebrating cultural diversity.

So, let’s join the Amazigh community in celebrating their cultural heritage and wishing them a happy and prosperous New Year.

You may also read: Fez Travel Guide 


When is Amazigh New Year celebrated?

Amazigh New Year is celebrated on January 12th and 13th every year.

What does Yennayer mean?

Yennayer is the Amazigh word for January, and it’s also used to refer to the Amazigh New Year.

What is the significance of the Amazigh New Year?

Amazigh New Year is an occasion to celebrate the Amazigh culture, traditions, and language and to honor their ancestors.

What are some traditional foods that are prepared during Amazigh New Year?

Couscous, tagine, and various types of bread are among the traditional foods prepared during Amazigh New Year.

What are some common traditions observed during Amazigh New Year?

Cleaning and decorating the house, preparing traditional foods, and lighting bonfires are some common traditions observed during Amazigh New Year.

Where is Amazigh New Year celebrated?

It is celebrated in North Africa and other parts of the world where there is a significant Amazigh population.


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