Rethinking “Sham el-Nessim” (Ϭⲱⲙ ̀ⲛⲛⲓⲥⲓⲙ)

I wanted to wish all Egyptians a Happy Sham el-Nessim. For those who celebrate it, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. EGYPTIAN NATIONAL HOLIDAY: This is an Egyptian national holiday that always falls on the day after the Coptic Orthodox Christian Easter. The festival was originally celebrated by ancient Egyptians (Pharaohs) more than 4500 years ago and is a celebration that all Egyptians, Christians & Muslims, participate in; it is considered a national festival, rather than a religious one.
2. NAMING: The name of the holiday is derived from the Egyptian name of the Harvest Season, known as Shemu, and literally means “sniffing the breeze.” It is one of the oldest Egyptian festivals in which Egyptians celebrate the official beginning of spring.  According to annals written by Plutarch during the 1st century AD, the Ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day.
3. NON-CHRISTIAN CELEBRATION: In other words, this is a celebration that has pagan origins and is in no way related to Christianity, albeit the dating of the holiday is connected to a Christian holiday. Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with Christ eating fish with the disciples after the resurrection. And let’s just for a moment pretend like it did, the consumed fish would be broiled, not “smelly” Egyptian sushi. 
4. HEALTH CONCERNS: Although many would argue that it is safe to eat “fiseekh,” (a salted fish that is left to pickle for several months), tens of people have been reported to meet their death every year during Sham El-Nessim, usually as a result of botulism.
Christ is Risen from the Dead trampling down death by death and bestowing life upon those in the tombs. Celebrate His presence in our midst, and let all that we do be to the glory of HIS name.


  1. Christ is risen!

    Point #3 brings up an interesting discussion for me. No one has any reservations about celebrating Sham el Nessim even though it’s origins are pagan. We even have no problem eating the same foods that were offered to false gods (i.e. demons). I am not against celebrating sham el nessim at all, I actually love eating feseekh and it’s a fun, family gathering.

    What troubles me is at the same time, we condemn celebrating Halloween for much of the same reasons. We claim the origins are pagan (even though scholarly research says otherwise) and say that we should not take part in them, even if we don’t mean anything demonic by it, because of its demonic origins.
    It reminds me very much of 1 Corinthians 8 in which some had issues eating food offered to idols.
    “7 However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.”
    These verses of course should be balanced with the end of the chapter which says, “12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

    • Mary, thanks for your comments…very insightful points. To be fair, in our house, we don’t celebrate Halloween or “feseeskh.” I try to keep my children as far away from it as possible but feel free to eat at your own risk 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *