Dohuk, Iraq – Members of the Yazidi community have rung in the year 6773 surrounded by stunning scenery in a mountain valley in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
At sunset, when Yazidis believe a new day begins, thousands of worshippers on Tuesday lit candles at Lalish Temple, the holiest of all Yazidi temples. Supreme spiritual leader Baba Sheikh Ali Alyas presided over the ceremony commemorating the coming of light into the world.
The Yazidi New Year falls on the first Wednesday of April according to the Eastern Julian, or Selucid, calendar, which is 13 days later than the Gregorian calendar.
Children boil and colour 12 eggs each for the months of the year. The egg symbolises the Earth. Boiling it epitomises the time it lies frozen, and colouring it stands for the end of the cold, frozen months.
For Hilda Dakhil, a 17-year-old who has come to the temple every New Year’s for as long as she can remember, the colouring of the eggs is “one of the essential rituals”.
At the temple outside Dohuk, young people play an egg-tapping game that symbolises one of the four divine events the Yazidis commemorate on New Year’s: the bursting of the “White Pearl”, which brought about all life.
“April has a special sanctity for Yazidis,” said Luqman Suleiman, 40. “We don’t cut down trees or plough the land in the first 15 days because this distorts the beauty of nature. We also don’t marry in April because we believe this brings misfortune. For us, April is the year’s bride in which there are no other marriages.”
Families hang bouquets of anemones on their doors and dress in pastel-coloured, festive clothes that are pressed and made ready well in advance.
Ewes are also not milked ahead of the New Year so they can fully satisfy their young.
Amir al-Hajj Hassan Zainal, 63, a Yazidi cleric, says, “This holiday is considered the creation of the universe because Lalish is the leaven of the earth, and this is the most important holiday we have because it is the feast of the King Peacock because God honoured him on this holy Wednesday.”