Ancient Egyptian Festivals

The Egyptians loved to celebrate, and they loved to have festivals that would celebrate their love for their gods.

Since the Egyptians knew that their gods were always present and doing things for them, such as Ra raising the sun, Khonsu traveling across the night sky bringing the moon at night, Bes allowing babies to be born and so on, the people did daily worship to these gods, but not formal worshipping or weekly worshiping at the temples, but these formal worships were in the form of festivals.

These festivals were written in calendars and they were found written in scrolls and inside of temples with a detailed list of what the dates were and what was supposed to happen at the festivals.

The festivals were an exciting time of the year and they were celebrated with games, food, banquets, parties, people would set up and sell food, banners were hung, music was played, there were parades and most of the time the priests would wear bird and animal masks and parade around the festival, representing their love for their gods.

Many times, female musicians would shake rattles as they marched around the festival.  As the festivals came to an end, the priest would take the food to the temple gates and pass out food to those that had attended the festival for those days.

The festivals would celebrate the different things that the gods did and oftentimes the people that attended the festival would carry around statues of the gods and “introduce” them to other statues, letting them meet up with the different gods.

These times of gathering were used for times of formal worship letting the people express their thanks and admiration and ask for favors from the gods formally.

The festivals also reminded people how the world worked and how the earth operated, and that the gods controlled everything, only allowing the priest and the King to have more power than the other people, just not as much as the gods.

The festivals would require the people to bring different offerings, depending on what the festival was, and most of the time, the King had to give money in order for the festival to be able to be had.

The priests were responsible for planning and opening the festivals and making sure that everything was right before the festival would start.

Most of the festivals were held on certain dates and they followed what was called the civil calendar.  These festivals went for a certain number of days and were celebrated each year by the people.

Many of the festivals celebrated something such as the Ramesses III Festival, which celebrated Ramesses for having victory of the Libyans.  This yearly festival was to celebrate this person, while other festivals celebrated gods or the birth of the land.

The Wepet-renpet or “Sothis” was called “opener of the year,” and was the New Years celebration.  This celebration took place following the flood of the Nile River, which the Egyptians knew when this would happen.  This celebration happened each year and was considered a huge celebration and the rebirth of the land.

Other festivals include the Feast of Wagy, the Festival of Opet, which celebrated the link between the Pharaoh’s and the gods, and at this festival, the people of Egypt could ask the gods yes and no questions.  They used a barge to give the answer.

If the barge tipped forward, the answer was “yes,” and if the barge backed away, the answer was, “no.”  The Festival of Choiak or Sokar celebrated the first season and celebrated the god Osiris.  There was a Festival of Fertility, celebrating the god Min, Heb-Sed which celebrated the King, Festival of the Potters Wheel, Rebirth Celebration of Nehebkau, and more, being around 30-50 festivals in one years’ time.

Facts about Ancient Egyptian Festivals:

  • The Wepet-Renpet Festival celebrated the death and rebirth of Osiris and celebrated the rebirth of the land and the people.
  • Beer was an important drink at the festivals and those that attended the festivals would drink beer and play sacred drums.
  • Wag Festival celebrated those that have already went to the afterlife.
  • Wag and Thoth Festival celebrated Thoth who brought about writing, knowledge and wisdom.
  • The Opet Festival is one of the most important festivals because it gives the king strength and power, renewing him from the prior year.
  • During many festivals, the people can ask the gods questions through the priest, who gives their answer according to what the gods say.
  • The Bast Festival celebrates the goddess Bastet who was a cat and the guardian of homes, women, children and women’s secrets.
  • The Nehebkau Festival celebrates the god Nehebkau who bound the Ka with the Ba after death.
  • The Wadi Festival was for the dead so that they could come and celebrate at the festival with those that are alive.

Q and A

  • Q: Why did the Egyptians want to have festivals?
    A: The Egyptians wanted to have festivals so that they could show love to their gods.
  • Q: Did the Egyptians come together weekly or daily to show group worship to the gods?
    A: The Egyptians did not come together weekly or daily to worship, they only worshiped together during the festivals.
  • Q: Who would pay for the festivals?
    A: The people would bring offerings to the festivals that would help, but the king was required to pay for most of the festival.
  • Q: Who was in charge of the festivals?
    A: The priest, even though they were in charge of the temple and getting bodies ready in the afterlife, they were also responsible for the festivals and making sure that everything was perfect.
  • Q: Were the people able to “speak” to the gods at the festivals?
    A: The people were able to ask questions to the gods, either yes or no questions or questions through the priest.
  • Q: What did most festivals celebrate?
    A: Most of the festivals celebrated the gods and what the gods had done for the people.