Still asking for those strenae at New Year?

An incoming link from here reveals a fascinating custom:

I leave you with a little philological excursus on the meaning of “bistraynti `alayk”, the traditional greeting that every Lebanese kid learns to scream at the top of his/her lungs on New Year’s morning. I’ve always wondered about the etymology of this term, and I recently stumbled upon an intriguing theory.

In Lebanon, and I am told that it is also the case among Christians in Jordan and Syria, we have a traditional new year’s greeting: we say:

bistraynte @layk/ @layke/ @laykon etc.

What this greeting means is that my *bistrayne* (i.e. new year’s gift) is on you, [so] you have to give me the gift. One has to be quick so as to get the others to give the gift.

He then links this with strenae, the gifts that Romans gave at New Year.  If so — and there seems no reason why not — this must be somehow Byzantine.  Does anyone have any ideas?


Leave a Reply