An Egyptian Festival Calendar
This is by no means a comprehensive calendar for all of ancient Egypt; this is because many festivals were very obscure and local in character, and some changed over time, merging with other festivals or by changing the gods or events they celebrated. But below are most of the best-documented and most widely celebrated festivals from Pharaonic times, enough for almost every month of the year. Party on!
You can follow the links to pages giving further background on particular festivals; if one isn't hyperlinked, a short description for it is given below. (More feast descriptions under construction)
Months and Seasons in Ancient
For the Egyptian calendar to really make sense, it helps to understand how they divided their year into seasons. Unlike our four seasons, they had only three: Akhet (Flood), Peret (Emergence) and Shomu (Summer). Each lasted four months. Akhet lasted from mid-July to mid-November on our calendar; Peret from mid-November to mid-March, and Shomu from mid-March until mid-July again. You can read more in the description of Upet Ronpet, the Egyptian New Year. Here's a breakdown of the months in each season:
Akhet - Flood Season
Djehutet - Akhet 1
Pa'en-Opet - Akhet 2
Hat-Hor - Akhet 3
Ka-Hor-Ka - Akhet 4
Peret - Emergence
Ta-ib - Peret 1
Makhir - Peret 2
Pa'en-Amunhotepu - Peret 3
Pa'en-Renenutet- Peret 4
Shomu - Summer
Pa-Khonsu - Shomu 1
Pa'en-Inet - Shomu 2
Apip - Shomu 3
Mosu-Ra - Shomu 4
List of Major Holidays:
|Modern Date:||Egyptian Date:||Festival:|
|July 13-17||Heru Diu Her Ronpet (Intercalary)||Days Upon the Year (see New Year)|
|July 18 (note, some groups use Aug. 1)||1st Djehutet (Akhet 1)||Egyptian New Year|
|August 3 - 5||17-19th Djehutet (Akhet 1)||Wag and Djehutet Feasts|
|August 31 (roughly)||15th Pa'en-Opet (Akhet 2)||Feast of Opet|
|October 16||30th Hat-Hor (Akhet 3)||Khenut Hat-Hor (Sailing of Hathor)|
|October 27- November 14||17-30th Ka-Hor-Ka (Akhet 4)||Haker Feast of Osiris, Feast of Sokar|
|November 15||1st Ta'ib (Peret 1)||Hab Sed, Coronation of the Falcon|
|December 14||30th Ta'ib (Peret 1)||Khenut Mut (Sailing of Mut)|
|January 4-8||21-26 Makhir (Peret 2)||Feast of Victory|
|January 13||30th Makhir (Peret 2)||Feast of Lifting the Sky|
|March 21||1st Pa-Khonsu (Shomu 1)||Feast of Min, Feast of Renenutet|
|April 28||15th Pa'en-Inet (Shomu 2)||Beautiful Feast of the Valley|
|May 20||7th Apip (Shomu 3)||Hab Nefer en Sekhen (Reunion Feast)|
|June 12||30th Apip (Shomu 3)||Feast of Apip|
|July 12||30th Mosu-Ra (Shomu 4)||Day of Mosyt (New Year's Eve)|
Short feast descriptions (with more on the way):
Wag and Djehutet Feasts -- The Wag (or Wagy) Feast was a festival of the dead that took place early in the Egyptian year. Translated as the "Supply Feast", it honored Osiris and focused on making offerings to loved ones and ancestors; inscriptions of the brothers Suti and Hor refer to garlands placed on memorial statues during the Wag observance. Many funerary inscriptions ask that the dead be remembered with prayers and offerings of food and drink on the Wag Feast.
The Djehutet Feast, or Feast of Thoth, took place the day after the Wag Feast every few years. This holiday was based on the lunar calendar, which is ten to twelve days shorter than the solar (or sidereal) calendar; as with the modern Jewish calendar, it created an extra 13th month about every three years. During this extra month Egyptians celebrated the Djehutet Feast, which became closely associated with the Wag Feast and was celebrated consecutively with it.
Feast of Sokar -- This was a planting festival, coinciding with the Haker Feast, that honored the falcon deity Sokar (who was often syncretized with Ra, Ptah or Osiris). Before the sowing of crops could begin, the pharaoh performed a ritual hoe-ing, not unlike a ceremonial groundbreaking today. There was also a ritual driving of cattle, and a procession of Sokar's statue on a model boat called the Henu barque that circled the walls of Memphis.
Coronation of the Sacred Falcon -- This very solemn holiday was observed in the temple of Horus at Nekhen, later at Edfu, during the same dates as the Hab Sed. A live falcon that bore the markings of Horus was selected, then taken in a silent procession along with the temple statue of the god to a special area. Horus' statue was carried by four priests, two with falcon masks representing the "Souls of Nekhen" and two with jackal masks representing the "Souls of Pe". The live bird was ceremonially crowned, then kept in a sanctuary with other sacred falcons who were crowned in previous years. The ceremony was meant to honor Horus' role as the embodiment of kingship.
Feast of Min -- At the beginning of the harvest, the pharaoh ceremonially cut the first sheaf of grain amidst ritual mourning and offered it to the ithyphallic god of fertility, Min. The main center of Min's worship was located in Akhmim, called Panopolis or Coptos in Greek. After the initial expression of sorrow, however, the rest of the feast was a celebration of fertility and bounty in the crops, livestock, and humanity.
The Coptic Calendar
The modern Coptic Orthodox Church still uses much the same calendar as their ancestors did, although the month names have modified slightly over the centuries and their starting point is later. You can read more about it on the website of the Saint Mary and Saint Antonius Church. Their explanation of how the Egyptian calendar adapted to the Julian calendar gets a bit complex, but the section on month names is quite interesting.
Collier, Mark, and Manley, Bill. How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-By-Step Guide to Teach Yourself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Jauhiainen, Heidi. "Do Not Celebrate Your Feast Without Your Neighbors: A Study of References to Feasts and Festivals in Non-Literary Documents from Rammeside Period Deir el-Medina" (dissertation). University of Helsinki, September 2009.
Watterson, Barbara. The Gods of Ancient Egypt. Bicester, England: Facts on File Publications, 1984.
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