Nauryz – feast of spring renewal
In Kazakhstan spring arrives fully on 21 March – on the special day when Nauryz is celebrated, signifying not only the spring equinox but also renewal of nature. Nauryz in Kazakhstan symbolizes fertility, friendship and love. On this special day people dress up, visit close people and keep wishing well. For eastern nations, Nauryz is the same as New Year, as both holidays are messengers of a new life. Even the name of the holiday “Nauryz” is translated from Farsi as “new day”.
Nauryz is a holiday that was celebrated before Islam; it was a remnant of memory form pagan ancestors when they honored natural cults. So, for example, in India they celebrate Lori – the last day of cold winter, in Egypt they call the beginning of spring as Jam en-Nessim, in Israel they celebrate Tu bi-shvat that is the season of rain, in Iceland there is Sumarsdag – day of arrival of summer. Nauryz has no relation to religion, on this day people all around Kazakhstan sing and dance, and take part in national games and merrymaking.
On Nauryz it is a must to have a traditional festive dish nauryz-koje on the table. Kazakhs believe that one should eat much of this dish on Nauryz, then your year will be in prosperity. Nauryz-koje is a nutritional rich soup that is cooked from 7 ingredients: meat, water, flour, butter, millet (could be replaced with rice or corn), salt and milk. Each component of the dish symbolizes one of the seven life beginnings: growth, luck, happiness, wealth, health, wisdom and sky auspices. Nauryz is full of symbols. So, the number 7 has its special meaning in celebrating Nauryz – seven ingredients in nauryz-koje, that is afterwards poured into seven bowls and is laid in front of wise old men-aksakals. Each person should invite seven guests and should visit other seven houses.
On Nauryz they drink kumys – dairy product made of horse milk. Traditionally on this day they congratulate by saying “Koktem tudi!” Also there are many contests of wit-poets held on this holiday, that are called "akins" in Kazakhstan; the feast cannot be without national contests among which is national wrestling "kazaksha-gures", logic game called "toguz kumalak" and of course horse games "kyz-kuu" and "bayga". Theatrical staged performances are played in the streets. Another old Nauryz tradition is "altybakan", where girls and boys gather together to socialize and ride on the swings.
Nauryz is not only a state holiday in Kazakhstan that is celebrated for three days, but also acknowledged by UN as an International Holiday. Nauryz is celebrated in all countries of Central Asia, as well as Georgia, India, Iran, China, Turkey and others.
Nauryz is a very important holiday for Kazakhs, which marks the beginning of a new year. It is celebrated several days starting from 21st of March, the day of the spring equinox.
Nauryz means ‘new day’, it is celebrated in the Great Steppes from ancient times.
Nauryz symbolizes goodness and wealth, happiness and love and a great friendship day, since this holiday is common for many nations.
During Nauryz celebrations, past offences are forgiven and forgotten and everybody makes a wish to leave all badness behind and bring renewal in the New Year.
Celebration of Nauryz
During the Nauryz holiday, large and small cities, villages become festival centres, feltyurts – traditional nomad houses are erected in city centres and rich dastarkhan (table) is laid down in each of them.
City squares get full of yurts, and many performances take place there. Here one can learn about the culture and lifestyle of nomads and find people wearing beautiful national clothes, listen to Kazakh songs and play of musical instruments, etc. In holiday exhibitions and fairs traditional gifts and souvenirs are sold.
Usually young people gather around Altybakan, which is a large hanging swing, with colourful decorations, where songs are sung, and traditional games are played.
During Nauryz holiday, many famous stars give concerts in cities and the holiday is completed by fireworks.
Dishes served during Nauryz
Nauryz kozhe is the most important of all meals during these days and a main symbol of Nauryz, since it is prepared specially for this day. Nauryz kozhe is special for its unique recipe.Traditionally, 7 different ingredients are added to Nauryz kozhe, which may vary, but basically these ingredients include: water, meat, salt, milk or yoghurt, one type of grains, chosen from rice, corn or wheat, and others. Seven ingredients symbolize seven virtues or qualities, such as joy, success, intelligence, health, wealth, agility and security.
During the celebration of Nauryz, the kozhe is offered to all guests in any city or village of Kazakhstan. Besides, other traditional Kazakh meals, such as beshbarmak, kuyrdak, baursak, and many types of meals made from milk (youghurt, kurt, cream, butter, cheese, etc) are also offered.
- Between 1926-1988, Nauryz holiday was not officially celebrated in Kazakhstan (Kazakh Soviet Socialistic Republic those days)
- In 2009 - 3 days of Nauryz holiday, starting 21th of March, were officially announced bank holidays in Kazakhstan.
- September 30, 2009 – Nauryz was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO; since then, 21 of March is announced International Day of Nowruz (Nauryz).
Now enjoy a short clip about Nauryz celebrations from Steppe Tales travel documentary.