NAVRUZ: New Year of Uzbekistan

Ask any Uzbek person, whether old or young, about their dearest and most favorite holiday. As often as not, you will get the answer “Navruz.” What kind of holiday is it? And why it is so loved by everyone, whether residents or guests of the country?

First of all, it has brought wisdom from the depths of the centuries to the contemporary era. The history of this holiday goes deep into the ancient history of humanity, to the time when farming and cults related to agriculture first appeared.
The birthplace of Navruz is Khorasan (north-east of Iran), and it is more than 3000 years old, and over time, it spread to the neighboring regions of West Asia and Central Asia. The holiday did not appear on a whim but according to the rules of nature.

On that very day, March 21, when daytime and nighttime are equal, a new solar cycle begins as well as a new astronomical year; thus, the law of renewal enters its strength. That is why Navruz for Turkic and Iranian people is the same as the New Year for the western part of the world. Later, during the Achaemenid Empire (6th-4th centuries B.C.E.), Navruz received an official status-change, shifting from a farming ritual to a Zoroastrian holiday, and was tied to the cult of the Sun and Zaratustra. Today, Navruz is a national holiday, and one of the main Uzbek national traditions, and it is full of ancient, unique rituals and beautiful customs as in ancient times.

A Navruz table setting

The main mystery happens on the night of March 21. It is time for the preparation of the main ceremonial meal from germinated wheat: sumalak (a sweet paste). The whole mahalla (social institutions or divisions based around familial ties and Islamic rituals), mostly women, gather near the huge pot; they sit in a circle, sing songs, have fun, each of them waiting for their turn to stir the sumalak. In the morning, the still warm sumalak is handed out to neighbors, relatives, and friends. While tasting the sumalak, it is necessary to make a wish, which, the locals say, will come true.

Navruz is generally very tightly connected with new hopes and expectations. Therefore, this day is used to forgive even the worst enemies, to not quarrel, and to help the weak and poor. People believe that all of this will lure success into your house.

Abundance is also a good sign. Hostesses fry special patties with greenery, cook nishalda (a sweet dessert made of egg whites, whipped with sugar and the scented roots of herbs), bake puff samsa (fried pastry with various fillings), and steam the fragrant pilaf in pots… On March 21, the table is plentifully laden with delicious food.

Another good sign of the holiday is to entertain. In each house, guests are expectantly waited for on this day: people accept guests and pay visits. It is hard to stay at home on Navruz! Folk festivals in the villages are especially interesting where traditional sport competitions of kupkari (team competition played on horseback), wrestling of dzhigits (brave people), and equestrian competitions are arranged. There are folk fairs as well, where you can buy everything from souvenirs to national baked foods.

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