Upholding Ma'at

Journeying through the modern world with ancient ways.

Shamm el-Nessim


I learned about a holiday that dates back to Ancient Egypt: Shamm el-Nessim.  According to this article the “inhaling the breeze” was celebrated since Ancient Egypt. What seems to be known about it in ancient times is it’s a time where onions, fish, and eggs were offered (one article indicates it was Sokar, but it doesn’t cite sources). According to the article I linked to, eggs were dyed the night before. Wishes were written on the decorated egg and left in a basket outside the house.

I haven’t really found other information on the holiday’s origins, though the wikipedia entry seems to elaborate that lettuce was also offered.  It also adds that it was originally The Feast of Shomu, so that gives a rough idea when it was celebrated and rather than a holiday associated with Sokar is most likely associated with The Return of the Wandering Goddess.  According to the aforementioned blog this festival was observed around the time the sun aligned with the pyramids, signifying the springtime started. Beyond this information there’s a tale about the significance of onions associated with this holiday. A pharaoh had an ill child (two blogs seem to conflict; one says a son, the other a daughter) who was cured by a priest using onions. In honor of the event the pharaoh made the occasion a holiday. Knowing this much indicates a few holidays for me if it isn’t a festival for Sokar nor the Return of the Wandering Goddess.

Despite the lack of information on how the Ancients celebrated, there is plenty of information on how the holiday is celebrated today. Today Sham el-Nessim is celebrated the first Monday after Easter is observed by Coptic Christians. This particular holiday is celebrated in modern times the Monday following the Coptic Easter Sunday.  In the morning Egyptians prepared their breakfast. This consists of a cured fish, eggs, onions, lettuce, and cucumbers. According to Food of Egypt the drinks served on this day was “black tea, lemonade or a lemon soda”. All of this was enjoyed outside as part of breakfast. People on this day try to enjoy the outdoors where they can. They picnic in parks, they picnic in the countryside, they visit zoos, anything where the breeze can be enjoyed.

I’ll see if I can find other information about this holiday because if it’s something of an ancient equinox holiday like the blog mentioned it adds another holiday to my list.

3 thoughts on “Shamm el-Nessim

  1. I know Helmsman of Inepu is planning to base his celebration of a modern-day festival of Wenut at least partially on Shamm el-Nessim, and I’m probably going to be doing something similar. (I’ve appropriated Easter for Her because — bunnies! And eggs, appropriate to Her snake aspect.)

    • I think that’s been the biggest problem with researching the origins of this holiday: it’s hard to tell which holiday it could be. I could definitely see it tied to Wenut for a modern twist 🙂

  2. Pingback: PBP: E is for Egg | Upholding Ma'at

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