There are a lot of ways to celebrate the New Year, and many of them involve parties. Well, the ancient Egyptians were big party animals themselves, and they had their own way of celebrating the New Year, too — which they called Wepet-renpet or “Opening of the Year”.
Ancient Egyptian festivals centered on processionals that took place on land and river, and were celebrated on particular days or series of days in the official year. Their New Year was no different from ours. Except…
The ancient Egyptian New Year wasn’t January 1st. Instead, their New Year corresponded to the Nile’s annual flood. The Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, first became visible after a 70-day absence. This usually happened around mid-July just before the annual inundation of the Nile River, which ensured farmlands remained fertile for the coming year.
They viewed their New Year as potentially their last. The Egyptian civil calendar consisted of 360 days, with five days added to the end to make up for the calendar slipping one-quarter day a year. These five transitional days were considered dangerous because the goddess Sekhmet controlled 12 demonic murderers, who travelled the earth shooting arrows from their mouths and causing plague. To protect themselves, the ancients performed rituals and wore charms around their necks to pacify Sekhmet and protect themselves from her wrath.
They partied. Hard. When the sun rose New Year’s Day, the ancient Egyptians knew Ra had defeated his enemies and was reborn again, so they got trashed in celebration. They imbibed in beer, wine, fish, figs, geese, pork, duck, beef, pastries, honey cakes, bread, lotus flowers (which has hallucinogenic properties), dancing, singing…and sex. Lots and lots of sex.
It was a “Festival of Drunkenness”. Discoveries at the Temple of Mut showed that during the reign of Hatshepsut, the first month of the ancient Egyptian year was time for a PAR-TAY. This massive party was tied to the myth of the war goddess Sekhmet, who was tricked into drinking herself unconscious by Ra and preventing her from killing humanity.
So, do any of your parties resemble anything here? I’d like to know. 🙂
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