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International Day of Nowruz

Every year on March 21 the “International Day of Nowruz” is celebrated. “Nowruz” means a new day, it is a celebration of spring, the first day of the new year, the day of the vernal equinox, the most famous and widespread holiday in Central Asia.

Nowruz is a national holiday of Iranian and Turkic peoples, one of the oldest holidays in the history of mankind. Nowruz is not a religious holiday and is more related to the folk tradition.

At all times, among the most joyful events in people’s lives has been the arrival of spring. Different peoples have celebrated it in different ways. Everybody celebrated it as a holiday of the rebirth of nature, triumph of life and hopes for a bountiful harvest year. Translated from Farsi, Nowruz means “New day”. Nowruz, which is celebrated on March 21, is considered the beginning of a new year. As you know, March 21 is the day of the vernal equinox. Duration of day and night is the same – 12 hours. On March 21, the Earth enters the period of universal astronomical equality. Also on this day, the seasons in the hemispheres change: if in the southern hemisphere it is autumn, then in the northern hemisphere it is spring. Many great men of the past associate the beginning of Nowruz with the name of Shah Jamshid. Here’s what Omar Khayyam wrote about it in his book “Nowruz nama”: As for the reason for establishing Nowruz, it is known that the Sun has two revolutions, one of which is that every 365 days and a quarter of a day it returns to the first minutes of Aries at the same time of day it came out, and every year this period decreases. When Jamshid comprehended this day, he called it Nowruz and made it a customary holiday. Kings and other people followed him.

Yes, it is the festival of spring. Warm days arrive, nature awakens and begins to change its decorations. In Uzbekistan, people prepare for this holiday very carefully and celebrate for 15-20 days. In the days before Nowruz, people everywhere in the mahallas (neighbourhoods) undergo khashars, where they clean ditches, whitewash trees and dig up vegetable gardens. Each mahalla has its own teahouse. And every mahalla celebrates Nowruz in its teahouse. In the teahouse delicious viands are prepared in huge cauldrons. Residents of the mahalla, as well as residents of neighboring mahallas are invited to the holiday. In addition, Nowruz is also celebrated in families. It’s a big holiday! All the relatives gather in the house. There are only a few dishes that are cooked only on the holiday of Nowruz. They are sumalak, khalim (khalisa) and a special tugrama plov. Pilaf is cooked for Nowruz actually there is no holiday without pilaf in Central Asia. However the main dish on the table will be guja (in some peoples halim or halisa) and sumalak (sumalyak, samanu). The process of cooking these dishes is long and laborious. They begin in the evening, and it takes all night before Nowruz. Women alone make sumalak, but men make gujja, or khalima. Gudja is made of seven kinds of cereals and meat, all boiled down to a homogeneous mass. Halim (khalisa) is porridge of wheat and meat, in some nations with the addition of peas and vegetables. And sumalak is halva made of sprouted wheat, which is main ingredient, and then cooked in a cauldron in cotton oil (in some peoples in water) with the addition of flour. These dishes are very healthy because they are rich in vitamins and amino acids. For the cooking of sumalak at the huge cauldrons all the women in a large family gather, and in the cities – the neighbors, taking turns stirring them continuously, so that the dish does not stick. The night turns into a women’s get-together with talking, singing, and even dancing. In the morning, sumalak is handed out to all those who participated in the cooking of the dish or contributed their share of products. These people, in turn, serve it to their relatives and acquaintances and take it home in bowls.

Once it has cooled, the dish is served. It is believed that the image that appears on the surface of sumalak determines what the New Year promises, and the dish itself gives people physical and spiritual strength. There is a belief that with the advent of Nowruz good angels (fereshta) come down to earth. They give people abundance and prosperity, joy and hope. However the angels, according to legend, bypassed houses where enmity lurked and where people forgot to clean up for the new year. Hence two very important rituals of Nowruz: thorough cleaning on the eve of the holiday and the need to forget enmity and quarrels. Also on the eve of the holiday it is necessary to get the blessing of parents and elders, to give out or forgive debts. In general, Nowruz is something more than just a holiday. How many centuries of Nowruz the belief is that the more cheerful and joyful it is, the more generous nature will bring to people. That is why ritual songs of Nowruz pour down on this day, people dance and have fun, rejoice at the arrival of spring and give each other gifts.