Algeria recognizes Berber's Yennayer as national public holiday

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-12 06:28:34|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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ALGIERS, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Tamazight-speaking community in Algeria were celebrating in joy their new year known as Yennayer after the government has finally recognized it as a public holiday.

This decision was taken on December 27 last year by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika during a cabinet meeting devoted to the adoption of the budget law 2018.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced Yennayer a paid nonworking day on 12 January, indicated a statement from the President Office.

Yennayer is celebrated in Algeria and elsewhere in the North African region, including in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

Berber community, more known as Imazighen (free man), are celebrating Yennayer as the beginning of the agrarian calendar for the new year of 2968 corresponding to January 12 of the Gregorian calender.

The origin of the Amazigh calendar is still ambiguous, as some say it bears it origin from the day the Amazigh king Chachnaq was enthroned a pharaoh, after defeating Ramses III in 950 BC. Others say it is linked to an agrarian calendar.

But one thing is sure that the Berber community devote this day to showcase their rich cultural and artistic heritage, including through their traditional food, clothes and music.

On the eve of the festival, families, either Amazigh or Arab, gather convivially around traditional dinner hoping that the new year would be prosperous.

The Amazigh language and culture and the celebration of Yennayer are actually not specific to Algeria. The Imazighen community still inhabit today Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali and Niger. They also exist in the Canary Islands in Spain, in the oasis of Siwa in Egypt and also in northern Burkina Faso.

The recognition of the Amazigh language and identity as a constant of the Algerian nation, beside Arabic and Islam, as well as the consecration of Yennayer as a national public holiday, have been among the main claims of the civil rights movement in Algeria since the 1980s.

Progress has been made gradually, as the government decided to open the teaching of Tamazight since 1995, in 38 out of 48 Algerian provinces. For its part, the national media landscape has been strengthened by the launch of programs in Tamazight language, including the opening of TV channel broadcasting solely in Tamazight.

In 2016, Tamazight was established as a national and official language in the new constitution, after it was recognized as a national language in 2002.

Linguists and Berber militants admit that the promotion of Tamazight still has a long way to go, as they believe that the establishment of the Berber Academy of Algeria would extremely boost the process. Tamazight is also expected in the coming years to be taught in all the schools over Algeria, while official documents and statements have started being issued in this ancestral language.