We have all heard of the day known as ‘Nowruz.’ It is the day of celebrations, and it was marked as such by the UN on 21st March of every year. Every Nowruz, nearly 300 million people or more would come together and dance around bonfires, meticulously clean their homes and eat a lot of home-cooked food which would represent prosperity. Singing poems and songs is also part of the celebrations, however, it is not common everywhere. The Nowruz day is commemorated as the beginning of spring and fertility, and it is represented as a day when people would overcome sorrow and darkness. Originally, it was thought to be celebrated only in Persia, now called Iran. However, it is also celebrated in the areas of Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, and different countries across Central Asia.
The word itself means, ‘new day’ in farsi language. Though many people with various religions celebrate the holiday, it is rooted in the monotheistic religion of Zoroastrianism. This religion is the world’s oldest monotheistic religion, and it predates not just Islam, but also Christianity. With the passage of time, the other religions prevailed and the pagan religion started receding into oblivion. However, the deep-rooted traditions and some of the values of Zoroastrianism are still celebrated. The celebration of Nowruz is one prime example. Other than that, the reverence for four elements of nature forms the part of many spirituality-based systems all around the world. Let’s take a look at how this tradition is celebrated in various parts of the world. Typically, in countries that have their name ending with ‘stan’ (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) celebrate the Nowruz with passion.
In Iran, the Nowruz is one of the most important and momentous times of the year. The celebrations often begin before the day even approaches. First of all, Iranians clean up their homes thoroughly, a tradition which is called Khane tekani. After that, on last Wednesday before Nowruz, Iranians light up the skies and streets for Chaharshanbe Suri, or ‘Red Celebration’, in honor of all things fire. Fire was a purifying element in the old Zoroastrian religions. Endless fireworks are set off, and people leap over bonfires, along with releasing lanterns in the sky. Celebratory food using spices, herbs and rice are cooked. One of the most interesting traditions is setting the table with seven items. Seven is considered a lucky number.
Nowruz has a special place in Azerbaijan. For the country, the holiday is linked to their past, and that’s why the celebrations start a bit early, as early as four Tuesdays before the actual Nowruz. These four Tuesdays represent reverence for the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Delicious pastries and rice dishes with meat and herbs are among the foods that families cook and enjoy. There is also a tradition where the children throw away their hats at their neighbors and hide. The elders have to return those hats filled with sweets and chocolates. Other festivals like painting eggs, fortune-telling and visiting the graves of relatives are also the part of the celebrations.
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Afghanistan is considered the spiritual home of this Nowruz. That is because the Iranian prophet who initiated the tradition lived in one of the cities of Afghanistan. Despite such a link, Nowruz is not celebrated in Afghanistan due to Taliban regime. However, some still practice the tradition in secret, and even one of the sports is linked to this day. It is similar to polo, however, the horsemen play with the disemboweled body of a goat in place of a ball. Certain foods and dishes are cooked in the honor of this festival.
The traditions usually depict nomadic customs. In Kazakhistan, traditional nomadic houses are built with a long dastarkhuwan, which is a long cloth is placed on which there are various food items. The traditional soup with seven ingredients is always there. Certain sports like horseracing and wrestling are also parts of the custom.
- The Rest of the Muslim Countries
The rest of the Muslim countries also celebrate Nowruz though the traditions may differ. In Kurdish communities, the Kurdish people celebrate it as celebration of their mythical hero who saved them from an evil king. Other than that, the rest of the countries have many unique as well as common traditions.