Navruz Festival in Central Asia
Central Asia's Navruz Festival
Also known as the Persian New Year, Navruz is one of the oldest celebrations for many of the Northern Hemisphere countries, including Central Asia. The Navruz holiday marks the beginning of spring and means the New Year for many these countries during March 21st when it is celebrated.
The significance of this date is that the number of daylight hours equals the number of nighttime hours, which is also when the sun coincides with the sign of Aries on the astrological calendar.
There is no question as to how big this holiday is if your coming to see it, as it is the largest and most important time in all of Central Asia. When going to visit, be sure to refer to this post as the Navruz can be both thrilling and overwhelming for anyone who hasn't seen anything like it before.
Although the oldest records of Navruz go back to the Parthian era(247 BC-224 AD), there is sufficient evidence to believe that this tradition has over 3000 years of history. Although it is widely celebrated among Central Asia, its roots are recognized as being in Persia which was interlinked with the Zoroastrian religion.
Despite there not being an abundant amount of records on the history of the Navruz festival, there were the certain era's that changed as typically the rulers of that particular period shifted, these include the time of Achaemenid, Parthian era, Muslim conquest of Iran and the current modern day era.
During the Achaemenid period, it is often mentioned by various sources that this was when the foundation of Navruz was built, as one of the main opinions is that the Persepolis Complex was built predominately for celebrating the Navruz.
During the Parthian and Arsacid era when Emperor Vologases was ruling, there is little records to show much information at all of this period, though from the consistent resemblance in later periods, it is believed that not much changed regarding its tradition.
During 224 AD, which was right after the succession of Sasanian Dynasty founder Ardashir Pabakan, records became more frequent and detailed about what occurred. The Navruz was then considered the most celebrated day of the year, in fact, many of the cultural rituals and traditions in the festival today were originated from that period.
The Muslim conquest truly was a test for how big the Navruz festival would be, and for a short period, it was dissipating and losing all of the ancient traditions due to the caliphates. Once the original dynasties were reestablished, not only did Navruz return in great fashion but was now considered an even more integral and important festival that is deeply rooted in the culture.
Modern day era
Of-course modern day is the most recent period, and perhaps the biggest for the expansion of the festival. Several countries and regions including Central Asia integrated Navruz as a national holiday following the downfall of the Soviet Union and independence of the associated countries.
Central Asia is massive on Navruz as one might have assumed, and no doubt that each country has their variation on the traditions and cultures.
Despite this, there are still common patterns that are typical amongst all of them, as although there are their nations, Navruz is an extraordinarily old festival and has rituals that cannot be modified.
The Kazakh people are known for affirming Mevlid prayers during the festival ceremonies, often with very polished homes and stylish appearances. Standard Navruz rituals are also performed such as leaping over a fire, which signifies forgetting the badluck of the past year and looking forward to better things. Navruz in Kazakhstan is celebrated on the 22nd of March.
The celebrations in Uzbekistan for Navruz are very activity based and involves predominately festivals that have the standard attributes such as rides, musicians, and dancers. The environment tends to be very socially friendly, which is why you will see people often greeting strangers and wishing them the best. Aside from the festivals, various sports including nationwide popular ones are played including cockfights, wrestling, and horse races. Navruz in Uzbekistan is celebrated on the 21st of March.
Commencing with a festival on the equinox, the Kyrgyzstan new year follows much of the standard rituals for Navruz. Food is the main celebration when it comes to celebrating the new calendar for Kyrgyz, "Nowruz Koco" is prepared which is simply a soup like substance that is syrup with added corn. Navruz in Kyrgyzstan is celebrated on the 21st of March.
Much like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan cleans their houses quite thoroughly before the celebration even starts. The foods predominately include meats, bread, and pastries that are prepared in a certain way to bring good luck for the following year. March 21-22.
During this special time in Tajikistan, the focus is heavily on paying debts and also forgiving people who may have done wrong by them. Clean clothing is a necessity to wear while gathering around the bonfire like many of the other Central Asian nations, and symbolizes the sign of hope. March 20-23.
As you have discovered, the history for Navruz is rich and has been passed down to future generations who have adopted many of the same cultural traditions such as Central Asia and although they subtly differ from country to country, the core traditions and rituals from Navruz remain alive and strong.