January 12 was the start of the new Amazigh year, 2949. Celebration of Yennayer took place in Cambridge, Massachusettes on Saturday, January 16, sponsored by the Amazigh Cultural Association in America (ACAA).
Amenzu n Yennayer (literally, dinner of January) is an Amazigh holiday, celebrated throughout north Africa and wherever North Africans can be found in the diaspora. Celebration may last several days. On the first day of Yennayer, many North Africans collect green wood branches and scatter them over their terraces. Amenzu n Yennayer is celebrated with an abundant dinner. In the Kabylie region, chicken or other poultry meat is normally served, along with vegetables and couscous. Others, who celebrate Yennayer over several days, eat only vegetables on the first day, and meat on the second. Meals also include dry fruits, such as figs, raisins, walnuts, dates, etc. Various cakes and beignets are also served.
Traditionally a family dinner, space is reserved at the meal for absent family members. Spoons, representing the deceased or otherwise absent members, are placed at the eating area, and a portion of the meal is left untouched when married daughters live far away.
It is also customary at Yennayer to replace the old with the new. For example, at this time, inyen (fireplace stones) are replaced. It is also expected for folks to finish their year's projects by Yennayer (an expectation that may not always be met, a factor of human nature!).
The Amazigh calendar is based on the Roman solar, the Gregorian year 1999 corresponding to the Amazigh year 2949. The significance of the date goes back to the first mention in historical records of the Amazigh people, referring specifically to an Egyptian pharoah from the imazighen.
Amenzu n Yennayer in Boston consisted of chorba (a traditional Algerian hearty soup, with lamb, vegetables, and spices), salmon with vegetables and mushroom, and the Algerian staple--couscous. Dates, other fruit, and pastries and fruit were also served.
After dinner, the new president of the ACAA, Akli Gana, was introduced, and entertainment was offered by MOH-AKLI AGHARMIOU and his band. The celebration took place at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, at 41 Second Street, and was well-attended.
The ACAA also held an exhibition of Amazigh artwork, traditional pottery and embroidery, and books.