New year in March?

Those who were in Kazakstan on the 22 of March may have wondered what was going on in the country. Why were there many yurts (nomadic tent house) and flags, why were people dancing and singing? It may sound strange but the 22 of March is a holiday called Nauryz, that means „the birth of spring“. This day had been celebrated long before Islam was introduced to Kazakhs and therefore it is not of religious nature. The holiday was declared irrelevant and ideologically inconsistent during the Soviet period that it rhe reason why Nauryz was not celebrated nationally from 1926 to 1988. Only in 2001 Nauryz was announced as the national holiday.

Celebrating the awakening of Nature is the core of Nauryz festival. This awakening symbolizes the triumph of good, the Spring that won over the evil forces of darkness represented by the Winter. There is a tradition to thoroughly clean you house on the eve of Nauryz, return all your debts, forgive all offences and resentments and to make peace with all with whom you were at odds. This tradition can be explained by the main theme of Nauryz- the renewal.

When the holiday comes, Kazaks would put on festive clothes, pay visits to each other, exchange congratulations, best wishes of well-being and good luck in the coming year. Traditionally they cook and roast and make all sorts of tasty meals during the holidays, for they should symbolize well-being and abundance in the coming year. The feast is usually timed to the noon, it is preceded and followed by a prayer in honour of the fore-fathers read by the mullah. In conclusion the eldest of those present gives his blessings (bata) so that year in year out prosperity be part and parcel of the family.

During the Nauriz holiday it is customary to share generously one’s dastarkhan (table). A special dish – Nauryz koje (yogurt soup) – is prepared for the festival table. In each yurt everyone would have their own recipe. The only rule for making it was the number of ingredients: seven. The guests are served the authentic food: meat dishes such as qazy, qarta, shujiq (lamb and horse meat delicacies), etc. They say that the more you are in celebrating the Nauryz holiday, the greater success will attend you throughout the year.

Posted on March 30th, 2008
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