By Reem Sharaf

Every year, Egyptians of all faiths and backgrounds gather along with loved ones to celebrate the arrival of spring. The festival of Sham El-Nessim is a historic and national holiday that dates back to pre-Islam and pre-Christianity. It is believed that the pharaohs would celebrate the end of winter, by putting on festivities to rejoice at the arrival of spring. Spring for ancient Egyptians, who relied on agriculture for a living, brought forth the harvest season and new life.     

In modern day Egypt, Sham El-Nessim, falls on the Monday following Coptic Easter which is celebrated by Christians living in Egypt. The name of the festival, literally translates to “smelling of the breeze”. On this day Egyptians go out to parks, have picnics, and overall enjoy the spring weather with their family and friends. The traditional dish eaten by most Egyptians on this day is, Feseekh. Feseekh is heavily salted and aged mullet that has a strong odor. People eat it with fresh onions and a dab of lemon. Along with the fish, people will usually serve boiled eggs that have been colored and decorated. Although it is arguably a symbol of Easter, the history of colored eggs also dates back to pre-Christianity when it was believed that eggs where a symbol of new life.

Nowadays, Arab American Christians, specifically Coptic or Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter and the arrival of spring by having an elaborate get together with family and friends. The arrival of Easter follows the month of lent in which Christians fast and avoid eating meat or dairy products. This tradition is meant to emulate the fasting and self-disciple Prophet Issah, Jesus took upon himself. The period of fasting lasts for 40 days and is then followed by the “feast”. The feast is intended to celebrate the proclaimed resurrection. On Easter‭.‬ Christians compensate for the fast by having a feast in which meat and dairy is served. Similar to Sham El-Nessim, colorful boiled eggs, usually dyed red are also prepared and served. They symbolize the resurrection, specifically an “empty tomb”. Although, fish is sometimes served on Easter, it is hard to find authentic feseekh in America unless it is home-made.

To learn more about Arab Americans celebrating Easter, Mr. Boutros Shawky, a local to the DC metropolitan area was interviewed. Thank you for sharing your traditions with us.

How do Arab Americans celebrate Easter?

Easter is the day of celebration after we had our vigil fast called the “great vigil”. The fast for those who can complete it lasts from Friday evening till Eastern morning. On the eve of Easter we have a religious ceremony and a religious play called the “resurrection play”. On Easter day, a feast is prepared and we eat traditional dishes of meat and Fattah. We buy and wear new cloth and share gifts with family. For the kids, egg painting and games is an activity they enjoy on this day.     

How do you maintain the Arab cultural traditions of celebrating Easter and the arrival of spring while in America?

We maintain our cultural celebration of Easter in America by staying attached to the Egyptian Coptic community and our Church. We also stay social and connected and try to maintain these traditions at our homes.     

Here at Hayat Washington, we wish everyone who celebrates Easter a happy holiday and wish everyone else a blessed and happy spring!               

_________________________________

Reem Sharaf is a public health professional by degree, an artist on occasion, a writer by motivation, and last but not least a mother by heart: specifically, to her precious baby girl who has become the very beat of her heart. These days she spends her time running after her daughter, managing her blog (tokensandtrinkets.org), and working as a self employed writer & editor.

بقلم‭ ‬ريم‭ ‬شرف

يجتمع‭ ‬المصريون‭ ‬من‭ ‬جميع‭ ‬الأديان‭ ‬والطوائف‭ ‬كل‭ ‬عامٍ،‭ ‬مع‭ ‬أحبابهم‭ ‬للاحتفال‭ ‬بقدوم‭ ‬الربيع‭. ‬احتفال‭ ‬شمّ‭ ‬النسيم‭ ‬هو‭ ‬عيدٌ‭ ‬قومي‭ ‬واحتفال‭ ‬تاريخي‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬يرجع‭ ‬إلي‭ ‬فترة‭ ‬ما‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬الإسلام‭ ‬وما‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬المسيحيّة‭. ‬يُعتقد‭ ‬أنّ‭ ‬الفراعنة‭ ‬كانوا‭ ‬يحتفلون‭ ‬بنهاية‭ ‬الشتاء،‭ ‬عن‭ ‬طريق‭ ‬الاحتفالات‭ ‬التي‭ ‬تُرحب‭ ‬بحلول‭ ‬الربيع‭. ‬والربيع‭ ‬بالنسبة‭ ‬للمصريين‭ ‬القدماء،‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬كانوا‭ ‬يعتمدون‭ ‬على‭ ‬الزراعة‭ ‬في‭ ‬حياتهم‭ ‬يُقابل‭ ‬حلول‭ ‬موسم‭ ‬الحصاد‭ ‬والحياة‭ ‬الجديدة‭.‬

في‭ ‬مصر‭ ‬الحديثة،‭ ‬يقع‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬شم‭ ‬النسيم‭ ‬في‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الإثنين‭ ‬التالي‭ ‬مباشرةً‭ ‬بعد‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح‭ ‬القبطي،‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬يحتفل‭ ‬به‭ ‬المسيحيون‭ ‬المصريين‭ ‬يُترجم‭ ‬اسم‭ ‬الاحتفال‭ ‬حرفيًا‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬‮«‬شَم‭ ‬النسيم‮»‬‭. ‬يخرج‭ ‬المصريون‭ ‬في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬المُتنزهات،‭ ‬ومعهم‭ ‬طعامهم،‭ ‬ويستمتع‭ ‬الجميع‭ ‬بالطقس‭ ‬الربيعيّ‭ ‬مع‭ ‬عائلاتهم‭ ‬وأصدقائهم‭. ‬

الطبق‭ ‬التقليدي‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يُقدم‭ ‬ويُؤكل‭ ‬في‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬من‭ ‬قِبل‭ ‬معظم‭ ‬المصريين،‭ ‬هو‭ ‬الفسيخ،‭ ‬والفسيخ‭ ‬هو‭ ‬عبارةٌ‭ ‬عن‭ ‬سمكٍ‭ ‬شديد‭ ‬المُلوحة،‭ ‬والسمك‭ ‬البوري‭ ‬المُسن‭ ‬ذي‭ ‬الرائحة‭ ‬القوية‭. ‬يأكله‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬جنبًا‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬جنب‭ ‬مع‭ ‬البصل‭ ‬الطازج‭ ‬وقليلٍ‭ ‬من‭ ‬الليمون‭. ‬وبجانب‭ ‬السمك،‭ ‬يقوم‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬بتقديم‭ ‬البيض‭ ‬المسلوق‭ ‬أيضًا،‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬قاموا‭ ‬بتلوينه‭ ‬وتزيينه‭. ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬أنّه‭ ‬يُمكن‭ ‬الزعم‭ ‬أنّ‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬يرمز‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬إلا‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تاريخ‭ ‬البيض‭ ‬المُلوّن‭ ‬يعود‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬عصر‭ ‬ما‭ ‬قبل‭ ‬المسيحيّة،‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬كانوا‭ ‬يعتقدون‭ ‬أن‭ ‬البيض‭ ‬يرمز‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬جديدة‭.‬

في‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الأيام،‭ ‬يحتفل‭ ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬العرب،‭ ‬وخاصة‭ ‬الأقباط‭ ‬أو‭ ‬الأرثوذكس،‭ ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬وبعيد‭ ‬حلول‭ ‬الربيع‭ ‬عن‭ ‬طريق‭ ‬التواصل‭ ‬والاجتماع‭ ‬مع‭ ‬العائلة‭ ‬والأصدقاء‭. ‬يأتي‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح‭ ‬بعد‭ ‬شهر‭ ‬الصيام،‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يصوم‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬المسيحيون‭ ‬عن‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬أو‭ ‬مُنتجات‭ ‬الألبان‭. ‬وتهدف‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬العادة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬محاكاة‭ ‬الصيام‭ ‬والالتزام‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬ألزم‭ ‬به‭ ‬نبي‭ ‬الله‭ ‬عيسى‭ (‬يسوع‭) ‬نفسه‭. ‬وتستمر‭ ‬فترة‭ ‬الصيام‭ ‬أربعين‭ ‬يومًا،‭ ‬ثم‭ ‬يأتي‭ ‬العيد‭ ‬بعدها‭.‬

والهدف‭ ‬من‭ ‬العيد‭ ‬هو‭ ‬الاحتفال‭ ‬بالقيامة‭ ‬المُعلنة‭. ‬في‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬تتم‭ ‬مُكافأة‭ ‬المسيحين‭ ‬على‭ ‬صومهم‭ ‬بحصولهم‭ ‬على‭ ‬عيدٍ‭ ‬تُقدم‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬اللحوم‭ ‬ومُنتجات‭ ‬الألبان‭. ‬وهو‭ ‬أمرٌ‭ ‬مشابه‭ ‬لشم‭ ‬النسيم،‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬يُقدم‭ ‬البيض‭ ‬المسلوق‭ ‬المُلوّن‭ ‬–‭ ‬والذي‭ ‬غالبًا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬يُصبغ‭ ‬بالأحمر‭- ‬أيضًا‭. ‬كلاهما‭ ‬يرمز‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬القيامة،‭ ‬خاصةً‭ ‬‮«‬المقبرة‭ ‬الفارغة‮»‬‭. ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬تقديم‭ ‬السمك‭ ‬أحيانًا‭ ‬في‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬إلا‭ ‬أنّه‭ ‬من‭ ‬الصعب‭ ‬إيجاد‭ ‬فسيخ‭ ‬أصلي‭ ‬في‭ ‬أمريكا؛‭ ‬إلا‭ ‬إذا‭ ‬كان‭ ‬مصنوعًا‭ ‬منزليًا‭.‬

ولكي‭ ‬نعرف‭ ‬المزيد‭ ‬عن‭ ‬العرب‭ ‬الأمريكين‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬يحتفلون‭ ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬فقد‭ ‬قمنا‭ ‬بمحاورة‭ ‬السيد‭/ ‬بطرس‭ ‬شوقي،‭ ‬مُطران‭ ‬محليّ‭ ‬في‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬العاصمة‭.‬‭ ‬

كيف‭ ‬يحتفل‭ ‬الأمريكيون‭ ‬العرب‭  ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح؟

عيد‭ ‬الفصح‭ ‬هو‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الاحتفال‭ ‬بعد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬قضيّنا‭ ‬صيامنا‭ ‬الكبيرالمُسمى‭ ‬‮«‬الصيام‭ ‬الكبير‮»‬‭. ‬الصيام‭ ‬يُمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يستمر‭ ‬من‭ ‬مساء‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الجمعة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬صباح‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬وذلك‭ ‬لمن‭ ‬يستطيعوا‭ ‬إكماله‭. ‬وأثناء‭ ‬إحتفالية‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح؛‭ ‬فإنّنا‭ ‬نقوم‭ ‬باحتفالٍ‭ ‬ديني،‭ ‬ومسرحيةٍ‭ ‬دينيّة‭ ‬تُسمى‭ ‬‮«‬مسرحيّة‭ ‬القيامة‮»‬‭. ‬وفي‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬عيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬يتم‭ ‬إعداد‭ ‬الإفطار،‭ ‬ونتناول‭ ‬الأطباق‭ ‬التقليديّة‭ ‬من‭ ‬اللحم‭ ‬والفَتّه‭. ‬ونشترى‭ ‬ونرتدى‭ ‬الملابس‭ ‬الجديدة،‭ ‬ونتشارك‭ ‬الهدايا‭ ‬مع‭ ‬العائلة‭. ‬أما‭ ‬بالنسبة‭ ‬للأطفال،‭ ‬فإن‭ ‬الأنشطة‭ ‬التي‭ ‬يستمتعون‭ ‬بها‭ ‬في‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬هى‭ ‬تلوين‭ ‬البيض‭ ‬والألعاب‭ .‬

كيف‭ ‬تحافظون‭ ‬على‭ ‬تقاليد‭ ‬الثقافة‭ ‬العربية‭ ‬أثناء‭ ‬الاحتفال‭ ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح،‭ ‬والاحتفال‭ ‬بحلول‭ ‬الربيع‭ ‬على‭ ‬الرغم‭ ‬من‭ ‬وجودكم‭ ‬في‭ ‬أمريكا؟

نحن‭ ‬نحافظ‭ ‬على‭ ‬تقاليدنا‭ ‬الثقافية‭ ‬في‭ ‬الاحتفال‭ ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح‭ ‬في‭ ‬أمريكا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬طريق‭ ‬الإبقاء‭ ‬على‭ ‬صداقة‭ ‬المُجتمع‭ ‬المصري‭ ‬المسيحي،‭ ‬وكنيستنا‭. ‬ونبقى‭ ‬ودودين‭ ‬ومُتصلين‭ ‬بتلك‭ ‬التقاليد،‭ ‬ونحاول‭ ‬الحفاظ‭ ‬عليها‭ ‬في‭ ‬بيوتنا‭.‬

هنا‭ ‬في‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬واشنطن‭/‬Hayat Washington‭ ‬،‭ ‬نتمنى‭ ‬لكل‭ ‬من‭ ‬يحتفل‭ ‬بعيد‭ ‬الفصح‭ ‬إجازةً‭ ‬سعيدةً،‭ ‬ونتمنى‭ ‬للأخرين‭ ‬ربيعًا‭ ‬مباركًا‭ ‬وسعيدًا‭!