Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review: Coptic Civilization - Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt

I'd like to wish you all, A wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

Whilst the ancient Egyptians may never have celebrated Christmas, it has been a tradition since the Coptic Period. This is celebrated on 29 Koiak of the Coptic Calendar, which is currently the 7th of January. 'Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt' notes that Coptic Calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar (p. 64). Although the religion may have changed, the Coptic people carry on traditions from ancient Egyptians times.
The Coptic people are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, many of whom are still living in Egypt today. Their language, Coptic, is considered to be endangered as it is not spoken daily, but is confined to the liturgy of the Coptic Church. Linguistically, it as the final phase of the ancient Egyptian language, and is thus used as a basis for reconstructing the ancient Egyptian tongue. 

"Both native and Hellenistic styles influenced the culture of Coptic Egypt. At first, pagan themes predominated but by the fourth and fifth centuries AD, Coptic art increasingly expressed itself through Christian motifs, eventually becoming the distinctive art of Christian Egypt."

The Copts also perform religious music, as they did in pharonic times. According to 'Coptic Civilization: Two Thousand Years of Christianity in Egypt' (pp. 73-75), Christmas is celebrated by the Coptic people with two special melodies, which were difficult to reproduce in spring or summer.

During the Fifth Century between 440-450 AD, the people of Constantinople demanded that and Coptic layman, Cyrus of Panopolis (a famous epic poet, philosopher, lover of Greek arts) give a Christmas sermon. This was one of the shortest Christmas sermons recorded:

"Brethren, let the birth of God our Saviour Jesus Christ be honoured with silence, because the Word of God was conceived in the holy Virgin through hearing also. To him be glory forever, Amen."

Like modern Coptic Christmas, Celebration, gifts of food, and feasting were the hallmarks of the ancient Egyptian New Year. However, in ancient Egyptian times, presents were often exchanged in the form of amulets of the goddess Sekhmet. Although modern Copts may no longer celebrate in the same manner as their ancestors, the holiday season is still filled with gifts, food and festive spirits.

by Gawdat Gabra (Editor)

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