- Title: FRANCE: Berber community in France celebrates New Year
- Date: 12th January 2012
- Summary: FAMILY EATING
- Embargoed: 27th January 2012 12:00
- Location: France, France
- Country: France
- Topics: People,Population
- Reuters ID: LVAACFHL485267DAI6S6VQRAI4V0
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Many members of France's Amazigh community, originally from North African countries, still celebrate "Yennayer," the Berber New Year, with three days of traditional festivities leading up to January 12.
The indigenous people of north Africa refer to themselves as Amazigh, although their language and other facets of their culture are referred to as Berber.
Many Amazigh in France come from Algeria and the majority of them live in Paris. One family in Villetaneuse, in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, revive age-old New Year celebrations with a traditional Berber banquet.
"We are preparing the meal just like generations of our family have done before. We use meat which has been sacrificed, often poultry, often mixed with dried meat to add to the couscous, which is a fundamental part of Berber cuisine. For the couscous, we use either wheat or barley," said Aljia Mejber, whose family came to France from the village of Tizi-Ouzou, near Algiers.
Amazigh rituals are loaded with symbolic meaning, and are intended to fend off hunger, foresee the future, prepare for change and welcome the invisible powers the Berber ancestors believed in.
"The New Year of Yennayer is really the soul of the Berber people, it represents our identity, our way of life, our traditions. And it's essential we keep them alive," said family elder Fatima Mejber.
Different sorts of couscous, pancakes, dried vegetables and meat are all typically served. The dessert menu consists of an array of dried fruits and nuts including figs, apricots and walnuts. Men and women dress up in traditional costume.
"The party is a time to get together with our family. We talk and we share. It is very important, especially being in France to reflect on the nostalgia we feel for our own country. We owe it to ourselves to keep the traditions going," said Saadi Mejber.
The partywith dancing and singing.
Berber was the main language of North Africa before Arabic arrived with the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. It is still spoken in the Sahara and in mountainous parts of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.
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