“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Nayrouz is the feast of commemorating the martyrs and confessors. It is celebrated on September 11, which marks the start of a new Coptic Year.
Nayrouz celebration falls on the 1st day of the Coptic month Thout; the first month of the Coptic year, which usually coincides with the 11th day of September in the Gregorian calendar or on the 12th in the year before Gregorian Leap Years.
The Coptic calendar, the oldest in history, is based on the ancient Egyptian Calendar. It was established in the year 4241 BC. The Coptic calendar divided the year into twelve equal months with thirty days exactly for each month and a thirteenth month made up of five days to complete the year, and called it the small month. The small month is usually five days in length and six days every leap year. They adjusted the beginning of their calendar to coincide with the flooding of the Nile period.
The word “Nayrouz” is of Coptic origin, originally, the words were “Niyaro ezmou” which means “the feast of the rivers”. When the Persian ruled Egypt from 525-405 BC, they adopted the word and incorporated it in their language and took it to mean “the beginning of their Persian year,” and called it “Nayrouz.” which means “the new year.”
The most severe persecution of Christians came during the reign of Emperor Diocletian who reigned from 284 AD (Anno Domini or Year of the Lord) to 305 AD. This is why from the beginning of the reign of this emperor, the Coptic Church recalculated the Coptic calendar so that the first year of the Coptic Calendar was 284 AD and added another name to the feast of the Coptic New Year, which is, “Year of the Martyrs”.
The martyrs in their martyrdom demonstrated the deepest form of love towards God. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” Jn15:13. The martyrs loved God more than their personal lives, and they laid down that life for Him. In their martyrdom they not only displayed the depth of their love to God, but also the depth of their courage.
They were an incredible example to all the generations in witnessing to the faith and being steadfast despite all the torture and persecutions. They are the ones who preserved the faith for us with their blood. This is why we consider the martyrs to be the seeds of faith, and the foundation of faith in the church.
There even came a time when death was desired by people. It was not just the overcoming of the fear of death but it had become a desire for them to depart this world and be with Christ. As St. Paul says, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” Phi 1:23. To the extent that once 30000 Copts went out of Damanhour towards Alexandria seeking martyrdom and they sang hymns and praised God on the way. Death had become a desire to them.
We celebrate the Feast of Nayrouz to honor the millions of martyrs who shed their blood for our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. They have kept our Coptic Orthodox Church strong until this day.
On celebrating feast of Coptic New Year we remember three things.
Honoring the millions of martyrs who sacrificed their lives as sacrifices of love for our Lord who sacrificed Himself on our behalf.
Joyfully celebrating the beginning of the Coptic New Year.
Expressing our eagerness for the second advent of Christ. During the two weeks before the Coptic New Year, the readings of the liturgies encounters the second advent of Christ.
In the feast of El-Nayrouz we behold the opened gates of Paradise. We see our Christ coming to carry us on the clouds, together with those who already entered the Paradise.
Have a blessed Coptic New Year.