It was an absolute mandate for Blesque to inform it´s visitors and dear followers about one of the most significant celebrations of Azerbaijan - Novruz. Zeynab Jahan, known for her expertise in Azerbaijani traditions and folk culture, has helped us to identify the main aspects of this wonderful Spring fest, below. Enjoy!
Every kid in Azerbaijan loves March – the month of an unbridled joy we were saying. Young as well as the old know that every Tuesday of March is a Novruz fest. This is when family and friends gather together to eat pilaf, make wishes and jump over the fire. Kids are the ones to organize the fire and this is the main joy! Not only do they have to prepare the bonfire themselves but through Novruz they develop their imagination!
So, what is Novruz? All explanations of this wonderful fest will eventually lead you to the nature itself. In Persian it means “New day”, otherwise interpreted: the coming of Spring. Iranian, Turkish, Albanian, Kurdish, Uzbek, Kazakh, Azerbaijani and even Indians are celebrating Novruz for over 3,000 years. It has Zoroastrian origins, but its celebrants are enjoying it in different religions, faiths and ethnical groups. It has been informally named the Eastern New Year. UN declared March 21 as "International Day of Novruz", it is also on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.
A spring fest – quite easy, right? However, one can not imagine the number of accompanied customs. Only Azerbaijan has about six forms of celebrating it, yet this is also divided by regions. If you are invited to at least three family dinners during Novruz, you will understand, that each house, and each housewife does it her own way. “Own way” literally means its own style of cooking pilaf, personal special decoration on the table, personal sayings, a specific way to jump over the fire, and of course – own bakhlava! This is sure one holiday, you can’t loose weight by celebrating. People in Baku tend to swear by a special diet a week before March, and two weeks later….
Those are the main points you have to know about Novruz:
- The beginning of celebration starts the first of the four Tuesdays (Chershenbe) preceding the 21st of March – the day of vernal equinox. According to ancient beliefs, the symbolism of the celebration of the four Tuesdays previous to the holiday, comes from the four elements of the universe: Water, Fire, Earth and Wind. The very first is a Water Tuesday: glaciers thaw springtime, the land is moistened. Water is a symbol of purity and the new beginning. A part from pilaf, a water glass or a water bowl has to be put down to the table. Fire Tuesday is the second one. Fire symbolizes the sun, that warms the planet in early spring. A candle is lighted for each family member of the house. Wind Tuesday then follows. Wind awakens the nature, carries away the old crop and brings new fruits. And finally, Earth Tuesday – this is the week of March when the land is ready for the new harvest. This is a last Tuesday of the fest, 7 things starting with a “S” letter are necessary on the table. Those Tuesdays are followed by a “Bayram axshami” – the evening before 21 of March (just like the New Year or Christmas celebration).
- The main sweets of the Novruz are symbolizing aspects of the nature, again. Gogal – sun; Shekerbura – moon; Bakhlava – fire.
- People are jumping over the bonfire for 2 reasons: 1) it is joyful and fun 2) they leave all of the negative of the passed year in the fire, and are making three wishes for the upcoming one
- Kids are leaving their hats by the doors of the neighbors. It is also fun it has became sort of a game over the years – the one who has dropped its hat by the door, rings the bell, and has to run away, before the host will open. The host puts any kind of food in it. Initially this was invented for the poor men, with the idea being that every family has some kind of a meal during Novruz.
- There are hundreds of other customs, one of them is fortune-telling. Fortune-telling also is divided by regions, districts, and family habits. The one that represents Novruz the best way is a listening behind the door. There is a belief that what you hear is going to happen to you the following year. That is why grandparents are against any fights, bad words, negative vibes in the house during Novruz. “Don’t croak the disaster to one’s destiny. Somebody might listen to you right now”. So, the ones who celebrate, have to be happy and positive during Novruz. Everyone who had a quarrel has to make peace.