Amazigh communities in Morocco welcome their New Year now officially recognized.

RABAT – Morocco’s Indigenous Amazigh communities, also known as Berbers, have celebrated their new year for thousands of years, predating the Islamification of North Africa. Their calendar begins in 950 BCE and this is year  2974.

This past weekend, on January 13, all Moroccans officially celebrated the Amazigh New Year, known as Id Yennayer, for the first time. Their neighbor, Algeria, began commemorating Yennayer in 2018. The holiday is celebrated across the Maghreb as well as the Canary Islands, and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

Morocco is predominantly Muslim, with Islam being the state religion. The majority of Moroccans adhere to Sunni Islam of the Maliki school. There are also small Christian and Jewish communities in the country, constituting a significant minority. The constitution of Morocco guarantees freedom of religion, reflecting a history of religious diversity and tolerance.

Amazigh Flag


In late November of last year, The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination completed its review of Morocco’s combined nineteenth to twenty-first periodic report. Committee Experts commended Morocco for its global efforts to advance the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. They also posed inquiries concerning measures aimed at preventing hate speech and safeguarding the Amazigh language and culture.

Morocco responded that the nation “was rolling out measures in various areas to promote Amazigh language and culture, with a budget of more than one billion dirhams. The Amazigh New Year was an official national holiday in Morocco; 1,941 schools provided instruction in Amazigh. The State had boosted the number of Amazigh programs on radio and television stations. Government speeches and official documents were translated into Amazigh. The Government had also adopted an employment strategy for Amazigh interpreters; over 400 such interpreters had been hired.”

Indeed, in May 2023, King Mohammed VI approved Id Yennayer as a new national holiday and instructed the Head of the Government, Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, to legislate the necessary actions to legalize the holiday. The Moroccan royal Court said in a statement that the move affirms the king’s “commitment to the Berber language, a fundamental part of Morocco’s authentic identity and a shared asset for all Moroccans.”

For years, advocates in Morocco have been encouraging the official recognition of the Amazigh New Year as a national holiday that is enthusiastically observed by Morocco’s Amazigh community, which constitutes approximately 40% of the population. In 2011, the Moroccan government officially recognized Tifinagh, the traditional script used by the Amazigh which dates to pre-Islamic times, as an official script in Morocco. Since then, Moroccan leadership has been actively working to integrate the Amazigh language and culture into education and government, though Arabic remains the official state language and various Amazigh languages are spoken across North Africa.


The Amazigh (which means “free people” or “noble people) have a diverse range of religious beliefs. While a significant number of Berbers are Muslim, practicing Sunni Islam, there are also Berbers who adhere to other religions or have syncretic beliefs. In North Africa, including Morocco, many Berbers have historically embraced Islam, but it’s essential to recognize the diversity within the Berber population, and not all Berbers follow the same religious practices. Some may also incorporate pre-Islamic traditions and customs into their spiritual beliefs.

The history of Amazigh culture is complex, with influences from various civilizations and empires that have interacted with the Berber people over the centuries. The Amazigh culture has seen contributions from ancient Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Arab-Muslim influences.

The commemoration of the Amazigh New Year, also known as Id Yennayer, stands as a time-honored tradition deeply ingrained in Amazigh communities spanning Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Western Egypt. Festivities include parades, dances, and folklore music. It is a weeklong celebration beginning on January 8 and culminating on the 14th.

Historically, this celebration aligns with the enthronement of Pharoh Sheshonq I of Egypt, marking the establishment of an Amazigh dynasty that extended across North Africa, ushering in a new era.

Id Yennayer holds significance in its connection with Amun, the god of fertility and agriculture as well as the moon goddess Tanit, associated with fertility, creation, and destruction.

Amazigh communities traditionally observe the day through rituals and prayers, seeking blessings for a prosperous harvesting season. The evening prior, bonfires are lit in the Atlas Mountains. Families make tagoula, a dish of barley, wheat and corn grits. It is eaten alongside melted smen (ghee), olive oil, or argan oil, complemented with honey. Concealed in the tagoula is a date pit known as amnaz, symbolizing good fortune. Discovering this pit is deemed a special blessing. The celebration mirrors the Amazigh people’s profound bond with the land, a relationship revered in the culture because it underscores their dependence on natural forces and their reliance on a fruitful harvest.

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