Monday, 25 April 2011

An Ancient Egyptian Easter: Sham El-Nasim - Inhaling the breeze

Today (Monday 25th, April) marks Sham El-Nasim, which Copts celebrate as part of Easter, but is one of the few days that Egyptians of all religions celebrate - since ancient times.

According to a report in Ahram Online this has been celebrated since 2700 BC. The name Sham El-Nasim (Inhaling the breeze) is derived from the Coptic language that, in turn, is derived from the ancient Egyptian language. Originally pronounced Tshom Ni Sime, with tshom meaning ‘gardens’ and ni sime meaning ‘meadows’.

Colouring eggs is a custom mentioned in the Book of the Dead and in Akhenaton’s chants: “God is one, he created life from the inanimate and he created chicks from eggs.” Hence, the egg was a symbol of life to ancient Egyptians.

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

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