سنة جديدة سعيدة

Happy New Year 2015, everybody! Please enjoy this post from a couple of New Years ago!

Arabic Word a Day

Sorry for the break in posting! Visiting family and a nasty cold will do that to you.

Most Arabs mark at least two “New Years” on their calendars, the Islamic and the Gregorian (many, especially in Iraq, may celebrate a third, Nowruz). As the Islamic calendar is lunar, and therefore shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Gregorian date of the Islamic New Year floats; for example, we are currently in the year 1434 on the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, and the year 1435 will begin roughly around November 4, 2013. I say “roughly” because lunar calendar dates depend on the phases of the moon, so any attempt to map them to Gregorian dates in the future may be off by a day or so in either direction. The Islamic New Year is marked quietly, with prayer and reflection on the Hijra, or the Flight of Muhammad from…

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Another new year

This blog has previously covered the Gregorian New Year, and on my Persian blog we’ve talked about Nowruz, which is also celebrated in many Arab countries, but sundown today marked the start of the new year on the Islamic calendar. So happy 1435 everybody!

There’s not a lot to talk about in terms of holiday customs, because the Islamic New Year is usually marked quietly, perhaps with some prayer and reflection on Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina, the هِجرة (hijrah), which is the event that marks the year 1 in the Islamic calendar. The next ten days, the first ten of the year, are not particularly celebratory, especially for the شيعة (shīʿah) community, which commemorates the anniversary of the events leading up to the martyrdom of إمام حُسين (Imām Ḥusayn, ʿAlī’s son and the third Imam) on the tenth, the day known as عاشوراء‎ (ʿĀshūrāʾ).

As was the case at the Gregorian New Year, “new year” is is رأس السَنة (raʾs al-sanah) or رأس العام (raʾs al-ʿām). To specify that you are talking about the Islamic New Year, you might want to say رأس السَنة الهِجرية (raʾs al-sanah al-hijrīyah) or رأس العام الهِجري (raʾs al-ʿām al-hijrī), هِجري being the name of the Islamic lunar calendar whose year 1 is commemorated by the Hijrah. That kind of specification is only important on the occasions when the Islamic and Gregorian New Years fall around the same time; most of the time the Hijri lunar calendar is out of phase with our solar calendar and it’s pretty obvious which New Year you’re talking about.

If “raʾs al-sanah” sounds familiar to you, maybe that’s because it sounds so much like the name of the Jewish New Year, “Rosh Hashanah,” and that’s about right, since Hebrew and Arabic are branches of the same Semitic root language.

“Happy New Year!” = سَنة جَديدة سَعيدة (sanat jadīdat saʿīdah) or عام جَديد سَعيد (ʿām jadīd saʿīd)

Happy New Year!

Sorry for the break in posting! Visiting family and a nasty cold will do that to you.

Most Arabs mark at least two “New Years” on their calendars, the Islamic and the Gregorian (many, especially in Iraq, may celebrate a third, Nowruz). As the Islamic calendar is lunar, and therefore shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Gregorian date of the Islamic New Year floats; for example, we are currently in the year 1434 on the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, and the year 1435 will begin roughly around November 4, 2013. I say “roughly” because lunar calendar dates depend on the phases of the moon, so any attempt to map them to Gregorian dates in the future may be off by a day or so in either direction. The Islamic New Year is marked quietly, with prayer and reflection on the Hijra, or the Flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, the event that marks year 1 of that calendar.

But today is the Gregorian New Year’s Eve, so let’s restrict ourselves to that event. “New Year” can be literally translated either as السَنة الجَديدة (al-sanat al-jadīdah, don’t forget to elide the “l” into the “s” and say “as-sa-nat-al-ja-dee-da”) or as العام الجَديد (al-ʿām al-jadīd). Both the feminine سَنة and the masculine عام mean “year,” though عام has more of an historical or record-keeping connotation. Another construct you may encounter is رأس السَنة (raʾs al-sanah)or رأس العام (raʾs al-ʿām), both of which mean “start of the year” but to which you can add the Gregorian qualifier, to wit: رأس السَنة الميلادية (raʾs al-sanah al-mīlādīyah) or رأس العام الميلادي (raʾs al-ʿām al-mīlādī), ميلادي being an adjectival marker for “Christian” (literally it’s the adjectival form of “birth,” but this is understood to refer to Jesus).

“New Year’s Day” = عَيد رأس السَنة (ʿīd raʾs al-sanah), “feast of the first of the year”

“New Year’s Eve” = لَيلة رأس السَنة (laylat raʾs al-sanah), “night of the first of the year”

“Happy New Year!” = سَنة جَديدة سَعيدة (sanat jadīdat saʿīdah) or عام جَديد سَعيد (ʿām jadīd saʿīd)