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The Berbers or Imazighen (meaning free men) are an ethnic group which reside in current day North African and West African regions in countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, northern Mali, northern Niger, and the Canary Islands. Berbers were the original inhabitants of North Africa before the 7th century Arab invasion, and they make up a fifth of Algeria’s 33 million people. The largest numbers of Berbers are believed to be in Morocco.
For Berbers, the 12th of January is new years day also known as Yennayer. In the Berber calendar, they are now in year 2971 which is our 2021.
This public holiday gathers large crowds of Berbers to the capital, Algiers and around the country, celebrating in traditional attire and singing to traditional songs and performing cultural dances such as the Ahwach and the Ahidous. Part of the festivities involves appealing to the spirits for goodwill and abundance.
In the mountains of northern Algeria, the local community can spend up to six months preparing the traditional “Timechret”, a ritual that involves sharing out pieces of meat to the village’s 2000 families. These celebrations are not only celebrated in Algeria but many African countries with Berber communities also celebrate this day.
The New Year celebration “marks the reaffirmation of some important aspects of agrarian society, a return to the land” as it is a way for Berbers to “refresh their collective memory.”
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