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Assyrian New Year

Atiku, or the Assyrian New Year, is also known as Kha b' Nisan, which means "the first of April" (Nisan is the Assyrian month of April), and Resha d'Sheta, which means "Head of the Year." Just as it did in ancient times, the holiday marks the start of the new year and the first day of spring. Historically, the new year was celebrated for 12 days and was a symbol of revival, which was a theme in ancient Assyrian mythology. Atiku was the most important holiday in ancient Assyria and is the most important Assyrian national holiday today. It connects ancient and contemporary Assyrians together and is celebrated by Assyrians no matter where in the world they live, and no matter their background—whether they be Syriac, Aramean, or Chaldean Assyrians.

On the ancient calendar, the Assyrian New Year coincided with the Spring Equinox, but when the Assyrians became Christians, they adopted the Gregorian calendar and the date of the holiday moved. Myth is central to the day: the goddess of love wed the vegetation god during the Spring Equinox and it brought a renewal of life and fertility to the Earth. In ancient times, tens of thousands in the Assyrian Empire traveled to Nineveh, the empire's capital, during the festival. Processions and mass marriages were important components of the festival. Other traditions were storytelling, poetry sharing, gambling, fortune-telling, and the sowing of barley.

In the present day, the Assyrian New Year is celebrated with parades, marches, parties, and festivals. Deqna Nissan—meaning "the beard of April" or the "beard of spring"—is a tradition from the past that has remained. Girls and women gather flowers, herbs, and grass and make garland to string from the roofs of their homes or hang on their doors. Joking now is commonly a part of the day, since it also happens to be April Fools' Day.

How to Observe Assyrian New Year

Celebrate by attending an Assyrian New Year parade or festival. One of the most prominent festivals is held in Sydney, Australia, and one of the biggest parades takes place in Chicago. You could take part in Deqna Nissan by gathering together flowers and grass and making a bouquet or garland to hang on your roof or front door. Some other ideas could be to read a book on Assyrian history or watch a documentary such as The Last Assyrians.

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