Cultural Oddities: The Day of the Prophet Zechariah
Today marks the Day of Zechariah, a Holy Day that is very close to the hearts of the inhabitants of Baghdad, especially the women. I don't think that this is done anywhere else in the Middle East, and certainly not with the same mass participation that marks it as a distinctly Baghdadi (...errr, sometimes pan-Iraqi) celebration.
The whole idea revolves around fertility, for Zechariah's wife was able to conceive even though she was very old (...or something like that). The child that was born grew up to become John the Baptist, a saint venerated throughout the Middle East.
The celebration itself involves a day of fasting on the 1st day of the lunar month of Sha'aban, and it even means fasting from talking, which is a welcome relief since only the women do it.
A tray is placed in the home with a number of lit candles corresponding to the number of family members. There are also bowls of sweets and nuts and a particular kind of plant and flower.
Anyway, just wanted to highlight this cultural marker that all Baghdadis, from every sect and religion, celebrate, and to wish you all a Happy Zechariah Day.
This is a picture of a Zechariah tray that I found at an Iraqi website: