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New Year in June?

New Year in June?

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Yhyakh

Experience a unique cultural journey as we explore the summer solstice celebration of Yhyakh, the New Year celebration of the Sakha Republic, through a captivating conversation between friends.

It was the 21st of June, city of joy was joyous as we received some rainfall the previous night providing a yarning relief from the unbearable prevailing heat. I too was happy and was enjoying a fresh cup of Darjeeling tea when my phone buzzed. Picking up the phone I was greeted with a rather surprising wish –Happy New Year’.

“Happy New Year! It is the middle of the year, isn’t it?I expressed  

Don’t you remember, I celebrated Poila Boishak with you and your family in Calcutta in April? Similarly, now it is the time when I celebrate New Year in my culture.She replied.

“But you are French, and I forgive my ignorance, I am unaware of any such celebration in France.I was intrigued.

“You are not ignorant,she continued,France does not have this tradition.She clarified leaving me even more confused.

“Then?I asked.

“This is the tradition that I inherited from my ancestors who migrated from Yakut some 200 years back.She clarified.

Pauline is a friend whose story I shared with you earlier about two years back. She is a charming young lady, who surprises me quite often.Tell me more about this festival,I asked.

“Well, to begin with, you need to know about the Sakha Republic.She started.

“Wait a minute, Sakha Republic? I remember reading about it somewhere. If I am not wrong it is a semi-autonomous region within Russia, known for its vast expanse—larger than Argentina—and its harsh Arctic winters.”

“Yes, in fact during winters the temperature often plunges well below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Yakutsk, the capital, records temperatures as low as – 64 °C.Pauline informed.

“What? I expressed my astonishment.

“Now you understand why New Year is celebrated this time of the year?Pauline expressed.

“Yes, perhaps because surviving these extreme conditions requires significant preparation, making the arrival of summer a cause for celebration.”

“Yes, preciously.Pauline continued,The summer solstice, marked by the longest day and shortest night of the year, holds special meaning for the Sakha people.”

“I see. Why?

“You see during winters, the Sakha Republic experiences only four hours of daylight, but during the brief, warm summer, the midnight sun offers a sharp contrast.”

“Okay, how?”

“The 21st of June, it’s the longest day and the shortest night,Pauline informed,the sun almost doesn’t go down. It gets dark for only two or three hours. So this day is very, very special.”

“Quite interesting,I expressed,tell me more.”

“The solstice signifies the start of a new year for the Sakha,Pauline continued,it is the time when nature awakens and communities come together.”

Well even as we are speaking, I am reading a paper by Eleanor Peers, the famous anthropologist.I interrupted,He writes that Yhyakh is a moment for the Sakha to relax and enjoy the warm weather before the intense activities of summer begin. So the name of the festival is Yhyakh?I asked.

“Yes, Yhyakh meaninglet’s sprinkle’, Pauline continued, historically, it was the only time for mass social interaction, a chance to visit with friends and extended family, and for young people to meet, court, and marry.”

“Fascinating,I expressed,so what are the rituals?I asked.

“Yhyakh is celebrated outdoors, often in a local landform called an alaas—a grassy meadow sunken into the earth, typically with a lake at its center, formed by the thawing and freezing of Arctic ice. Have a look at this video, I just sent you.Pauline said as my phone buzzed with a message prompt.

 

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“The festivities begin at noon with the Algys, a blessing led by a shaman called the Algyschyt.Pauline continued,He lights a fire and makes food offerings to the gods, including a sprinkling of kymys which is a fermented horse milk over the flames, symbolizing the beginning of the holiday.”

 “Pauline, I also read that the participants join hands for a circle dance, you know what this is somewhere very similar to the Naga tribes in India,I informed.

Yes it symbolizes the Earth going around the sun,Pauline informed.

“I see, you say that this is an ancient practice, so that means the people in this part of the world always knew that the earth revolves around the sun, isn’t it?I checked.

“Yes, perhaps, why do I ask?

“No, I was thinking of Galileo, and the ignorance of the church,I recalled.

Pauline laughed and saidWell, religious dogmatism is always hostile to rationalism, but that is a different discussion. Coming back to the festival, it continues with community fests with summertime delicacies, and live music, dance, and athletic competitions known as the Dygyn Games.”

“What is Dygyn Games?I enquired.

“It is an activity with traditional wrestling, horse races, and archery competitions.  

“Fascinating, thank you, Pauline,I said and addedI will share about this festival with my readers

That, my dear readers, was my conversation with Pauline that day. Before I conclude let me just share a thought. Our world is a beautiful place with varied cultures and traditions, we can learn so much from each other, yet themasters of warfind it charming to fight. Signing out with the hope thatTHE WORLD WILL LIVE AS ONE.’

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