|International Day of Nowruz- 21 March|
|Wednesday, 17 March 2010 21:52|
On February 2010 United Nations General Assembly recognized the 21 of March as the “International Day of Nowruz”, the day of vernal equinox, which is celebrated as the beginning of the new year by more than 300 million people all around the world and has been celebrated for over 3000 years in the Caucasus, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Balkans, and the Black Sea basin.
Before UN GA resolution on recognition of “International Day of Nowruz”, this festival was included into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on September 2009.
As it has been highlighted in the UN GA resolution Nowruz is an affirmation of life in harmony with nature, the awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labour and natural cycles of renewal and the solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life.
Taking into account the important role of the processes of mutual cultural enrichment and the necessity of promoting civilizational exchanges, UN General Assembly calls for member nations to make efforts to raise awareness about Nowruz and to organize annual events in commemoration of this festivity and to study the history of the origin and traditions of Nowruz with a view to disseminating knowledge about the Nowruz heritage among the international community.
References to Nowruz have been found in ancient Chines historical sources, “Kutadgu Bilig”, in the writings of Mahmud Kashgari, Biruni, including in the Malikshah’s calendar and laws of mid-century Ag-Goyunlu state of Azerbaijan.
Despite the fact that the Soviets forbade any official celebration of Nowruz, Azerbaijanis have always observed the date as their greatest and most important holiday even tough they sometimes had to celebrate it discreetly inside their homes.
Notwithstanding bans and hardships imposed by the Soviet regime centuries old traditions of Nowruz, festive customs, songs, games and rites, including all culinary dainties of special “Nowruz” cuisine and all the joy of getting in touch with the ancient culture of the ancestors preserved well in the minds of Azerbaijani people.
Nowruz in Azerbaijan is associated with the beautifully lush green color of new growth and is specifically symbolized by the growing of freshly sprouted wheat or "samani" as the Azerbaijani people refer to it.
Friends and families visit one another. Usually, a very carefully guarded hierarchy is observed and the oldest members of the community receive guests first. Gifts and food are shared with the needy, poor, and sick.
Usually preparation for Nowruz begins a month prior to the festival. Each of forthcoming 4 weeks is devoted to one of the four elements and called accordingly in Azerbaijan. Each Tueasday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements- water, fire, earth and wind. The last and the most important Tuesday is devoted to wind and called Yel Charshanbasi or Ilakhir Chershenbe by Azerbaijani people.
On Ilakhir Chershenbe everybody- the young and the old- should jump over bonfires seven times. While jumping, it is necessary to keep saying: “My yellowness is for you, your redness- for me” that means “take away my diseases and give me your strength”. When the festive fire almost goes out, one should throw a twig of rue to coals – this rite is believed to be a remedy for the Evil Eye. The festive fire should not be put out with water- it is better to let it go out.
On Ilakhir Chershenbe or in the Nowruz evening, one can make a wish and go to the neighbour’s doors at sunset. In front of each door, one drops a key onto the ground and overhears. The first two overheard words will indicate whether the wish will come true or not. Of course, on this particular day cherishing festival atmosphere people talk about positive and pleasant things in their homes.
With Novruz comes new clothes. Houses and yards are cleaned. Trees are pruned; fields cleared. It's a time for renewing relationships as well. People who have had quarrels and refused to speak with each other use this chance to forgive one another and renew their relationships.
To be a guest of Azerbaijani family during Nowruz means to have a chance to enjoy many chef-d’oeuvres of the national cuisine. Among the sweets served at the festive table which are to be served in every house are pakhlava, shakarbura, shorgogal, badambura etc.
The decoration of the festive table is khoncha, a big silver or copper tray with Samani placed in the centre and candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it. The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.
Though there are many various dishes cooked in the festive evening, “the hit of the program” of each table is a pilaf with “gara” – a mixture of meat and dried fruits.
Within the festival, young men place handkerchiefs under the doors of their beloveds. If a girl reciprocates a young man’s feeling, she should put sweets into a handkerchief, if she does not – a handkerchief will be empty.
On the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, according to old traditions children slip around to their neighbours' homes and apartments, knock at their doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds all the while hiding nearby waiting for candies, pastries and nuts.
It will be interesting to compare via “Google Earth” - free internet application, satellite night pictures of our Earth taken a few days prior to the holiday with those made in Nowruz night. Millions of bonfires will be seen on our Earth – peaceful and festive fires bearing only the warmth and hope. And faith in kindness and prosperity that Nowruz will present to all of us!