Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fasting Of The Ninevites (Baoutha)

NOTE: This post was originally posted on my other blog two years ago. That was before I started this blog. I believe it has to be moved here so my Catholic readers can read it too.

Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq -- I believe the rest of Christian-Iraqi sectors do the same -- have a special fast, which starts three weeks before Lent. Its roots go back to pre-Christianity. If you have ever read the Book of Jonah (called Younan in Chaldean) from the Old Testament, then you'll know of which story I refer. It's a sweet and humorous story of Jonah from Israel who was sent by God to Nineveh city in Iraq to ask its people for repentance. To his surprise, the city listened to his message (I know, Iraqis are full of surprises). Everyone was required to fast including infants and animals. By the story's end, God shows Jonah His love for everyone, even the non-believers.

Christian-Iraqis fast every year for three days as a sign of thanksgiving to God. It starts on a Monday. People fast from midnight till midday and abstain from eating meat and all animal products during these three days. We keep our ancestors traditions, and this is one of my favorites.

Churches start mass before midday. Since it usually occurs during spring break in Iraq, churches are usually full with parishioners. Because we're social people in the Middle East, you may get invited to a friend's house, or you would invite friends to your house for lunch after church. The most popular food during the three-day fast is spinach, sabzi herb and onion soup made with sesame sauce. I have no idea how my mom makes this soup, but I LOVE IT. Other food would include fish, rice, falafel and vegetarian dolma made with rice, dill and olive oil. I love the food during these three days, it's the best.

In Basrah, we also make special sweet candies called "Halawat Khadr Alias." I can't remember if other parts of the country make this kind of sweets, I remember Basrah because it's one of these things you remember from your happy childhood days. Basrawi-Muslim shop owners don't ever miss Baoutha's date. They prepare the mixture for these candies on the second or third day of Baoutha. Christian women would buy kilos of the ready-made mixture from the shops. We usually add walnuts to the mixture and make it into small balls (the size of a small egg) then store them in big containers filled with flour to keep them moist. I miss these candies so much; I miss many things from my happy childhood in Iraq.

BTW, I do speak Chaldean-Aramaic language. My dad reads, writes and speaks Chaldean language. It's my first language. Arabic is my second language and English is my third language. I wonder if I'll have a fourth language sometime in the future.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this ancient Iraqi tradition.


Blogger Jon Hermiz said...

Awesome information, I am chaldean living in Michigan and at times it is difficult to explain Baoutha to my american friends. This was exactly what I was looking for.

Jon Hermiz

1/17/2008 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger Fayrouz said...

Hi Jon,

I wrote it for the same reason :-)

It's easier to refer people to this post than trying to explain Baoutha to them.

1/17/2008 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Waleeta said...

Great post - just one remark. This is actually a pre-Christian Assyrian fast in which the Ninevites - ancient Assyrians - fasted for three days at the behest of Goddess Ishtar in order to raise Tammuz from the dead - which he did, three days later. The Assyrian churches adopted it and made it into a Christian fast, and of course when the church split into the three (Nestorian, Syriac, and Chaldean Catholic) all three churches continued the ancient Assyrian tradition!

3/20/2008 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mar Dezie said...

I am currently studying in Kottayam SEERI literary aramaic it's a two year course oh today is the third day of the fast of the Ninevites, I'll be glad of breakfast tomorrow. In southern India the fast is more of a memory though a colleague here from California a Syro-Malabar he also fasted. I would have loved to study at the old centres in Iraq, after this course I hope to go to Saint Esprit Kaslik and then maybe to Turkey for the other centres of literary aramaic. Well I looked up the fast coming near to the end now we just finished Ramsho prayers may you be happy. Sorry I am a bit spaced out and clear headed an odd mixture best stop there then.

1/27/2010 08:48:00 AM  

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