Monday, April 5, 2010

An Interesting Holiday

These pictures are from a couple of years ago when we traveled to the Red Sea with some friends. You can see in the bottom one a man holding up the faseekh, or salted fish.

Yesterday, of course, was Easter, and I do hope everyone had a great one, but here in Egypt, today is another holiday that is celebrated only in Egypt. It is called
Sham el-Nessim. In English this means "smell the breeze". It is the holiday that signals the beginning of Spring. It always falls on the day after the Eastern Christian Easter. It has nothing to do with the Christian-related date, and
Egyptians celebrate this holiday regardless of their religion.

It is a holiday that dates back to 2700 B.C. when it was a religious festival celebrated on the vernal equinox by the Ancient Egyptians. They used to offer salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day. Because of this, these foods have become the traditional foods of this Ancient holiday.

The salted fish is called fiseekh. It is prepared in a traditional process, passed from generation to generation. Grey mullet is caught, piled high in containers, and left out until decomposes. When there is sufficient evidence of its putrification, salt is added and the fish are left to pickle for a few more months. Sounds yummy, huh? I have never tried it. I can hardly even stand the smell.

Another tradition on this day is to be outside. Anywhere there is a nice place to sit, people take their lunches outside and enjoy the outdoors. Others travel to the Sea or other popular areas. We are kind of party poopers on this day, because being from a small town in America, we do not like the huge crowds of people everywhere. Also, if you travel anywhere, and plan to return that night, you might as well plan on getting home rather late. The traffic is always bad due to so many people returning home from their holiday outing.

So, even though we didn't really do anything special for this Ancient Egyptian holiday, we still enjoyed having an extra day off from school and work. And, with this holiday comes the feeling that summer is almost here. Any you know what that means? Summer break! Can't wait.

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