Dr. Ahmad Al Warith
To this day, the people of the Bani Zeroual tribe in the far north of Morocco celebrate changes in the seasons with rituals that have distinctive cultural signs. The most famous of these celebrations are ‘Al-Hakouz’ in winter and ‘Ansarah’ in summer.
Here, I will describe the winter celebration in an attempt to identify the rituals and their reasons and implications. For Al Hakouz, the tribe prepares a dish called ‘Dishishah’ for dinner and serves it with a variety of dried fruit. They ensure that there is an abundance of food and that everyone – especially the children – eats until they are full. After dinner, they spend the night singing ‘Banyu’ and visiting people’s homes to collect gifts.
The following day, the families prepare other special dishes. The most important include roasted chickpeas mixed with olive oil, garlic and cumin; bread decorated with raisins, almonds and walnuts; and courgettes stuffed with sardines.
It has now been established that the origin of the Hakouz ritual dates back to the agricultural era. At that time, the celebration was an occasion to ask for the holy union of rain and land in the hopes of an abundant harvest, and people made sacrifices to heaven in order to bless the union.
First: The Hakouz (also known as Annaier) was originally a feast like other agricultural holidays governed by the solar calendar. It is considered one of the ancient solar feasts, and the peasants performed special sacrificial rituals to prepare for and bless the new agricultural season. It was an opportunity for the peasant to grow closer to heaven and to renew this strong connection with hope.
Second: Today, despite changing conditions, mentalities, lifestyles and livelihoods, the Hakouz is one of the customs that has retained some of its rituals among peasants in Morocco. This celebration reflects the norms of peasant society, and confirms that culture is valuable to humans; it cannot be erased, although it can adapt to changing conditions.