Celebrating and Ancient Egyptian People
Ancient Egypt began around 3150 B.C., when city-states along the Nile became unified under one Pharaoh, and lasted for about 3,000 years. The end of "ancient" civilization is marked by Alexander The Great's entry in 322 B.C. During this period of Egyptian culture, many festivals and celebrations were developed, which gave reprieve from hard, frugal lives.
Jubilees and Festivals
There were countless national and town-specific celebrations in Ancient Egyptian culture. The events were referred to as jubilees or festivals. Most festivals were held annually and celebrated specific Gods or holidays. For celebrations centered around the Gods, a procession occurred in which a statue representation of the God, which was thought to be the God himself, was carried on a specific journey atop the shoulders of priests. Different rituals were associated with different festivals, both public and private. Like modern-day Egyptian celebrations, Ancient Egyptians made merry by drinking wine and beer and eating special dishes made for the occasion.
The Festival of Opet
The ritual celebration of the Festival of Opet marks the most common activities associated with festivals that honored a specific God. During the period of the New Kingdom, from 1539 to 1069 B.C., this festival was considered one of the most important throughout Egypt; toward the end of the New Kingdom, the festival lasted 27 days. The purpose was to honor the God Amun, who was believed to breathe power into the Pharaoh. For this reason, the Pharaoh participated in the ceremony that included a procession beginning at the temple of Amun in Karnak and ended at Luxor Temple. Priests donned the deity Amun in fine jewelry and linen before making the journey to Luxor. Citizens watched and followed the procession. Dancers moved to music being played during the procession, and the state handed out food as a showing of generosity. In the 12th century, it was recorded that 385 jars of beer were handed out during the festival. The purpose of the festival also allowed the Pharaoh to atone for his mistakes in the previous year and to once again be considered a pristine ruler by his people.
Not all Egyptian festivals were grand affairs financed and promoted by the state. Many villages held their own festivals for Egyptian Gods. Osirian festivals were meant to honor the god Osiris, who was the god of the underworld. Villagers organized this festival on their own and paid tribute to the god in the form of animal sacrifices at Osirian temples. Pigs were presented at temple doors with their throats cut,.and fish were offered to the god as well.
This festival stands out because most Egyptians only witnessed it once in a lifetime. It was in honor of the presiding pharaoh and took place 30 years after his reign began, and then every three years after. This festival was symbolic of regeneration and meant to ensure a long rein of the pharaoh in the afterlife. Not all citizens were privy to the actual ritual of this festival, although many witnessed a lavish procession produced by the state to celebrate it. The actual ceremony was held in a semiprivate courtyard in which the pharaoh gave offerings to the goddess Sechat-Hor, who was thought to give him immortality.
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