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The Peasant’s Year

Contributed by Arab Educational Institute on 19.03.2006:

Do all English children know why in summer the days are long and the nights short, whereas in winter the days are short and the nights long? This is the story that mothers in Artas tell to their little ones in explanation. “One day our Prophet Mohammed, God’s Peace upon him, passed by and saw the ploughmen ploughing. He said to them “Peace be to you.” Only the oxen replied. The Prophet said: “May God cut your days short and lengthen your nights.” Later the men went to plant dura. The Prophet saluted them again. None answered. He said: “May God lengthen your days and cut short your nights.”

So in the time of the winter ploughing the oxen have comfort and long rest for the courtesy to the Prophet, while in the time of the summer planting men for their discourtesy toil the long day through and have scant rest at night.

In spite of the flowers and occasional blazes of sunshine the last days of February and the first days of March have a special reputation for storminess. They are called the “Borrowed days” (El Mustaqridat), and the following story is told about them in Artas.

“The old wife was sitting in the wadi, minding her sheep and spinning. Now the end of February was near and little rain had fallen. The Beduins said to her: “Come out from the wadi, for the rain may come and sweep you away.” She would not listen to them and mocked at the mouth of February. “O February, you wild fellow, that on your hand” (Ya shabat el labbat, hadi fi kaffah), meaning a blow with her spindle. February in a rage cried to his cousin March, “O my cousin, help me, lend me three of your days with rain,”

“Three of yours and four of mine,

And we will make the wadi sing”

(Telatatan minnak w arba’tan minni,

w binkhalli el wadi yeghanni).

So March lent February three days’ rain, and they flooded the valley and swept the old wife away with her spindle and her sheep, right down into the Dead Sea.

Source: From Cedar to Hyssop: A Study in Plant Folk Lore.

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