Monday, April 09, 2007

The pagan origins of the Moroccan Mimouna

The Mimouna celebration has nothing to do with Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, but everything to do with appeasing Lady Luck, claims Yigal bin Nun in Haaretz:

"The Mimouna table offers a hint of the holiday's true origins. It is not set for a family dinner, as usual, but displays an array of symbols that are basically variations on a theme. On this table you will not find typical Moroccan cuisine. It is laden neither with meat dishes nor an assortment of salads. Instead, it is laid out with items, each of which is symbolic in some way: a live fish swimming in a bowl of water, five green fava beans wrapped in dough, five dates, five gold bracelets in a pastry bowl, dough pitted with five deep fingerprints, five silver coins, five pieces of gold or silver jewelry, a palm-shaped amulet, sweetmeats, milk and butter, white flour, yeast, honey, a variety of jams, a lump of sugar, stalks of wheat, plants, fig leaves, wildflowers and greens. All are symbols of bounty, fertility, luck, blessings and joy. The traditional holiday greeting fits right in: "Tarbakhu u-tsa'adu" - meaning, "May you have success and good luck."

"Why is the table set this way? The answer can be found in the name of the holiday and in the songs traditionally sung on the day. The Arabic word mimoun means luck or good fortune. At the Mimouna celebrations, songs are sung in honor of "Lady Luck." One of them is "Lala mimouna/ mbarka masuda," which means "Lady Mimouna/lucky and blessed." Lady Luck is being feted with a table laden with goodies symbolizing abundance, health, success and good fortune.

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