While I and my fellow Ohio State fans anxiously watch the National Championship tonight (go Bucks!!!!!), the rest of Azilal will be celebrating a different holiday. I forgot to mention this holiday last year but nonetheless it’s something I find fascinating – the Amazigh New Year, which takes place on January 12.
The Amazigh New Year is celebrated among the Amazigh populations of North Africa, which are concentrated in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya but also reach into the other countries in the region. The celebration itself is nothing too special – it mostly revolves around eating food and spending time with friends and family – but the history and the conflict surrounding the holiday are what I find most interesting.
This year the Amazigh people celebrate the year 2965. According to some, this commemorates a victory of an Amazigh leader over the Egyptian Pharaoh that led to a unification of the Amazigh community (in our calendar that first year was 950 BCE). It’s also sometimes recognized as the beginning of the agricultural year.
Although there is a fairly large Amazigh population in Morocco, the Amazigh New Year is not recognized as a national holiday, which leads to conflict every year. Amazigh activists across the country use the holiday as an opportunity to protest that while the Amazigh language was recently recognized as an official language in Morocco, the government has a long way to go with actually recognizing and embracing the country’s Amazigh heritage. I saw a couple different protests in Azilal last year; even the high school students staged a walk-out in protest of the government’s lack of recognition of the Amazigh people and culture.
This year, I’ll just focus on the celebrating. Happy 2965! Asggas Amaggaz 2965!