Nowruz in the Persian language means “New Day”. It is the most important holiday of the year for Zoroastrian believers, who on this day celebrate the rebirth of nature and the beginning of spring. Nowruz is a New Year holiday dating back to the Old Iranian tradition which falls on the spring equinox. Not only the Iranians celebrate it but also other ethnic groups who are or were under their cultural influence such as the Turks from the Republic of Turkey, the Kurds, the Azerbaijanis, the Afghans, the Albanians, the Georgians, the Tajiks, the Turkmen, the Kazakhs, the Uighurs, the Uzbeks, the Kyrgyz, the Karakalpaks and others.
A few versions and legends exist about the origins of this holiday. However, Nowruz is undoubtedly linked with the purification process. Traditionally, before the celebration people tidy their homes, clean out wardrobes, wash the dishes. Generally, everyone should have new clothes on. A man should be purified as well; not only physically but also spiritually. One has to celebrate Nowruz in good spirits, with positive intentions. Compassion is the most important attribute of Nowruz. During the holiday people forgive those who have hurt them and ask for forgiveness from those whom they have hurt. Another custom is to spend time with friends and family and visit the graves of relatives.
Purification is preceded by siamiani sprouting, which are cress seeds that are sown during Easter by the Polish people. Siamiani – not only a table decoration but also a symbol of fertility. If siamiani grows well it means that we are to expect record harvest this year. Sprouting plants have a deeper philosophical meaning: participation in the birth of new life, influence on its beginning and development through kindness and sensitivity.
Nowruz-Bajram begins a month before the actual day of festivity. Each of four weeks – or rather each Wednesday – is dedicated to one of the elements of the world: “Su Charshabnasi” (Water Wednesday), “Od Charshabnasi” (Fire Wednesday), “Torpag Charshabnasi” (Earth Wednesday), “Achyr Charshabnasi” (Last Wednesday). According to the legend, on Water Wednesday water was renewed, on the second Wednesday fire got purified, on the third – the earth, and on the last one the wind opened the tree buds and then the spring arrived.
In 2010 the UN's General Assembly recognized Nowruz as cultural heritage, a festival which has been celebrated for 3,000 years and registered it on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The 21st of March was officially proclaimed the International Day of Nowruz.
Nowruz is one of the most favourite holidays of the Azerbaijanis who celebrate this day as a public holiday since 1998. In different historical period various religions dominated in Azerbaijan: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Christianity. Nowruz was present a long time before the emergence of Islam. The Azerbaijanis usually solemnise several days preceding Nowruz, they prepare to celebrate worthily the end of the Old Year and the beginning of the New Year. The last day of the Old Year (20th of March) is also considered a feast day by the Azerbaijanis and they call it “Nowruz Eve”. This year, as the Azerbaijan government decided, the days from 20th to 24th of March are officially recognized as public holidays. What is more, in the ancient times Nowruz was celebrated for six days and even the peasants didn’t work during this festival. Those work-free days were only devoted to meetings and entertainment.
On Tuesday evening prior to the last Wednesday of the holiday, every family should light candles, commemorate the dead and make a fire in the backyard. It’s thought that jumping over bonfires cleanses from illnesses and negative emotions. Additionally, it’s forbidden to use water to put out the bonfires. When the fire extinguishes, boys and girls gather the ashes and scatter them at the edge of the village or on the road. It also symbolizes purification: the adversities of all the people who jumped over the fire are destroyed and thrown out of the house, the street. Children have their game, too. While visiting their friends and relatives they leave caps or bags for holiday gifts at the house entrance.
According to the custom, in the evening before the festival people come near their neighbours’ doors to “eavesdrop” their conversations. People think that depending on the first overheard words they need to draw conclusions about their dreams coming true. That’s why everyone tries to broach only positive subjects when they talk in their homes. Usually during the holiday the entrance door stays open. It show that every family is prepared to have random guests.
Families with one of the members ill hit the spoon aginst the empty plate near their neighbours’ doors. Once they hear those sounds they have to share with them some dishes, sweets or money. The dishes are given to the ill, and in case of sharing the money the family has to buy something to eat and prepare a meal for the ill member. People believe that food received in such a way should contribute to the recovery.
It’s thought that if you don’t spend Nowruz with your family, they won’t be able to celebrate this day together for the next seven years. Usually there is no alcohol on the feast tables. The dishes include nuts, raisins, national sweets: pahlava with lots of layers, nut cake sheker bura, layered pastry with salty filling shor gogal. On the first day of New Year people wake up early in the morning, sprinkle themselves with water, which is a symbol of purity and freshness. Everyone wish a happy New Year to each other.
The ancient spring festival of Nowruz is a nationwide, unforgettable and the most beautiful holiday of the Azerbaijanis which, thanks to its mystique, still differs from other holidays. Even though so many years have passed, Nowruz preserved the features which are valuable for the whole nation.
All the best for Nowruz – the Spring Holiday!

Hijran Aliyeva

Sources: 1)
2 )

Tłumaczenie: Iwona Białek