Falling on spring equinox

Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean communities celebrate Akitu festival in Kurdistan

DUHOK — A colorful spectacle adorned the streets of Duhok city as thousands of Assyrian, Chaldean, and Syriac citizens poured into its heart, marching to the beat of drums and traditional flutes. Draped in vibrant traditional attire, they brought life to the ancient streets, their hats proudly crowned with colorful feathers swaying gently in the breeze and flags emblazoned with symbols of community unity fluttering overhead.

This was the scene of the Akitu Festival, a cherished celebration marking the Babylonian-Assyrian New Year, now in its awe-inspiring 6774th year. The festivities kicked off with a procession that wound its way from the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin in the Girebase neighborhood. The march culminated at the bustling plaza near the Zakho highway, where the heart of the celebration awaited.

Participants from across Duhok, as well as from neighboring cities within the Kurdistan Region and even from abroad, joined in the jubilant parade. For Sanwer Daniel, an official at the Assyrian Cultural Center, this annual event has been held since 1991, a testament to the community’s resilience.

Rooted in ancient customs, the Akitu Festival holds deep significance, falling on the cusp of the spring equinox. It harkens back to a time when agriculture and the rhythms of nature held sway, a festival heralding the arrival of spring, the season of irrigation and seed sowing. Yet, its roots delve even deeper, entwining with the religious rituals of ancient Mesopotamian civilizations.

For the Christian Assyrian, Syriac, and Chaldean communities, the Akitu Festival remains a vibrant thread connecting them to their rich cultural heritage. It’s a time of joy and celebration, honoring the traditions passed down through generations with reverence and pride.The Akitu Festival, deeply rooted in ancient Mesopotamian traditions, has transcended its origins to become a global celebration of Assyrian heritage and identity. Far from being confined to the Kurdistan region or solely observed by Assyrians in the Kurdistan Region, this vibrant event unites Assyrian communities across Iraq and extends to Syria, the United States, and beyond.

Distinguished by traditional attire, music, and the Assyrian flag, Akitu not only commemorates the ancient New Year but also serves as a profound expression of unity and resilience among Assyrians worldwide. As a testament to its universal significance, various countries host elaborate festivities that underscore the enduring legacy and cultural richness of the Assyrian people. Duhok, known as Nohadra to the Assyrian community, becomes a focal point for the celebration, drawing visitors from around the globe to partake in its rich traditions and communal festivities.

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