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Egypt Marks Sham El-Nessim Festival

Mon 06 May 2024 | 08:01 PM
Ahmed Emam

Today (May 6th) marks the celebration of Sham El-Nessim festival. This festival takes place right after Easter Sunday every year. 

The festival is celebrated outdoors so that everyone can enjoy fresh air. People can have picnics in green spaces, public gardens, by the Nile, or even at the local zoo to celebrate.

The day has been celebrated by all Egyptians, regardless of their religion, beliefs, and social status, since 2700 BC. The name "Sham El-Nessim" means "inhaling the breeze" and is derived from the Coptic language, which, in turn, originates from the Ancient Egyptian language. Initially, it was pronounced "Tshom Ni Sime," with "Tshom" meaning "gardens" and "Ni Sime" meaning "meadows."

Sham El-Nessim, which means "inhaling the breeze," is an Egyptian feast that has its roots in the Ancient Egyptian language, specifically the Coptic language. Originally, the name was pronounced Tshom Ni Sime, with "tshom" meaning "gardens" and "ni sime" meaning "meadows."

Like most Ancient Egyptian feasts, Sham El-Nessim was connected to astronomy and nature. It marked the beginning of the spring festival, with day and night being equal in length, and the sun in the Aries zodiac, indicating the start of creation.

The Ancient Egyptians, who referred to it as "The Feast of Shmo" or "The revival of life," determined the exact date each year by measuring the sun's alignment with the Great Pyramid in Giza.

These days, many Egyptians celebrate the feast by heading out to parks and gardens for a family picnic. They enjoy the spring breeze with a traditional meal of fish, onions, and eggs.

Fish was a significant part of Ancient Egyptian beliefs, and this was reflected in their cuisine. Salted mullet fish (known as fesikh) was offered to the gods in Esna, Upper Egypt. Esna's ancient name was Lathpolis, which reflected the original name of the fish before salting.

Another traditional practice during Sham El-Nessim is the coloring of eggs. This practice reflects the Ancient Egyptian view of eggs as symbolic of new life. The symbolism of eggs featured in the Pharaonic Book of the Dead and in Akhenaten's chant, "God is one, he created life from the inanimate, and he created chicks from eggs."

Ancient Egyptians would boil eggs on the eve of Sham El-Nasim, decorate and color them in various patterns, and write their wishes on them. They would tuck them in baskets made of palm fronds and hang them on trees or the roofs of their houses, hoping that the gods would answer their wishes by dawn.