11 September 2011
Tomorrow, 1 Tut 1728 Anno Martyrum, marks the first day in the Coptic calendar which goes back to ancient Egyptian times. Even though Egypt has been following the AD calendar since the 19th century when Khedive Ismail attempted to ‘modernise’ Egypt, Egyptian farmers and peasants lead their lives according to the Egyptian Coptic calendar, since it is directly linked to agricultural activity on the land of the Nile.
The Coptic calendar is a stellar one which begins with the day the star Sirus appears in the sky. The 365-day year—366-day leap year—is divided into three seasons: the inundation, cultivation, and harvest. There are twelve 30-day months, and one “small month” of five days in a regular year and six in a leap year.
The Coptic calendar is firmly embedded in the Church’s prayers. During the inundation season the Church prays during Holy Mass for the Lord to: “Let the waters of the river rise as is best, according to Your grace. Bless and preserve the souls of men and farm animals.” When the sowing season begins in Hatour, December, the Bible readings cite the parable of the sower. During the cultivation season, prayers are raised for the ploughing of the land, the sowing, growing, and abundant harvesting of the produce. And during the windy season, the Church prays for the “winds of the skies and the fruit of the earth,” asking the Lord to “endow the wind with a pleasant temper.”
In ancient times, history was marked by the years of the reign of each king. As Christianity was introduced to Egypt in the first century, Christian Copts faced widespread persecution at the hands of the Romans. The persecution was so harsh and thousands and thousands of Christians lost their lives, that the Coptic Church decided to use 284AD, the year the Emperor Diocletian ascended the throne, to mark the beginning of its calendar. To this day, the Church proudly says it has been built upon the blood of the martyrs.
Tomorrow will see the Church chant during Holy Mass: “Bless the year with Your goodness”, while Copts eat red dates to commemorate the martyrs. The red stands for their blood, the while heart for their pure hearts, and the stone for their solid faith.
Watani wishes its readers a happy, blessed new year.