The Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II on Friday canceled most Easter celebrations, limiting them to a simple Mass, following the recent twin attacks on churches by ISIS militants that killed dozens of worshippers.
During his sermon on Good Friday, Pope Tawadros said, “Easter celebrations shouldn’t come at a time of offering condolences to our martyrs.” He said that the Easter morning reception, in which worshippers exchange greetings, would also be cancelled. In a rare show of discontent and anger, several dioceses and monasteries across the country issued similar statements. After the deadly attacks, Christians blamed the government for failing to protect churches.
However, Egyptian Muslims and Christians respond to the recent twin Palm Sunday bombings by continuing their preparations to one of Egypt’s many distinctive traditions and celebrations.
Marking the beginning of spring, Egyptian Muslims and Christians come together preparing to celebrate the Easter holidays and Sham El-Nessim that always falls on the day after the Eastern Christian Easter.
The attacks prompted the President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to declare a three-month-state of emergency. He also ordered deployment of the armed forces to help police secure vital installations including churches.
The past days witnessed a sharp increase in security measures across the country, with checkpoints set up along the roads that lead to the main churches in Cairo and its adjoining governorate of Giza.
Sham el-Nessim, “smelling the breeze”, is an annual celebration that is based on a tradition that has been practiced since the days of the Pharaohs.
Every Monday following the Egypt’s Coptic Christians celebration of Easter, thousands of Egyptians are found in the parks, cinemas, restaurants and beaches.
Purchasing the traditional Sham el-Nessim salted mullet fish (known as fesikh) is presented with scallions and lemons, continues to be one of the many practices that constitute the commemoration.Following the horrific attacks that left 44 dead, Muslims and Christians are hoping to embrace their Egyptian identity.
“On this day, the whole country smells of Feseekh,” Fouad Nazmi, a resident of Cairo, told Al Arabiya English.
“The event is part of every Egyptian’s identity… it is commonly celebrated by Muslims and Christians alike,” he added.
Another Cairo resident said that the day brings back happy memories.
“We are used to celebrating the beginning of spring and the gatherings on this day. It is part of our memories and upbringing.”