Nowruz all over the world

Febrero 2022


300 million people around the world participate in a commemoration of spring and fertility, marking the overcoming of pain and darkness. It is celebrated in Iran, but also in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries, as well as in their diasporas around the world.

The International Day of Nowruz was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253, in 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey). Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and India prepared and introduced a draft resolution (A/64/L.30) entitled International Day of Nowruz during the 64th session of the General Assembly for review and approval.

At the 71st plenary session on February 23rd, 2010, the General Assembly welcomed the inclusion of Nowruz in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on September 30th, 2009.

It also recognized March 21st as International Nowruz Day, and invited Member States, the United Nations system, in particular UNESCO, and interested regional and international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, to participate in the events organized by the countries where Nowruz is celebrated.

Although the principles of Nowruz are the same, each country weaves its own unique traditions and spells it slightly differently.

In Iran, Nowruz is the biggest holiday of the year and a momentous moment throughout the country. and in this same web-site we dedicate a special treatment (see “How do Iraninas celebrate Nowruz”)

For Azerbaijanis, it is a nod to their past.

Reminders of Azerbaijan’s Zoroastrian past are everywhere in the country and although ‘Nowruz’ was stifled here under the Soviet regime, families continued to celebrate it in secret, and today is the happiest date in the Azeri calendar. The festivities start early: the four Tuesdays before Nowruz celebrate the four elements: water, fire, earth and air; families gather to make traditional cakes.

Like Iran, there is also a table of seven ‘s’ elements, all centered around the semeni (wheat sprouts tied with a red ribbon). Children are the main protagonists of this festivity, who enjoy throwing hats at neighbors’ doors before hiding and hoping to come back with a hat full of sweets and chocolate.

The country is filled with street festivals with traditional songs and dances, and with the comical characters of Kecel and Kosa, who dramatize the struggles between winter and spring. The largest festival of this kind is held in the capital, Baku. Other Azeri traditions include painting eggs; jumping over roaring campfires; divination to predict if and when girls will get married; and visit the graves of relatives.

Afghanistan is believed to be the spiritual home of the celebration.

For the most part, Afghanistan ushers in the new year in a similar way to its neighbors. It is celebrated predominantly in the north of the country, particularly in the Balkh province, which is believed by some to be the spiritual homeland of ‘Nowroz’. Although disputed, Zoroaster, the ancient Iranian prophet who founded Zoroastrianism, is said to have first lived and preached in Balkh, one of the oldest cities in the world.

Nowroz was banned by the Taliban regime in the 1990s, which considered it a pagan festival, but many families still celebrated it privately. These days, thousands of Afghans head to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, in Balkh province, to attend the Guli Surkh festival; The main event of Nowroz commemorates the first 40 days of the year, when the green plains are awash with red tulips.

Buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan, is a popular custom during Nowroz. It is somewhat similar to polo, but instead of a ball, players on horseback maneuver a dead, headless and disemboweled goat.

Throughout all Central Asia, Nowruz is steeped in nomadic tradition.

Nowruz is celebrated in the five ‘Stans’; Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. As in Azerbaijan, festivities in the region were suppressed during Soviet times and it was not until the 1990s that Nowruz was publicly celebrated again. Traditions throughout the region have similar characteristics (think lots of food, family gatherings, colorful street festivals, and nomadic sports), though they can vary slightly from country to country, and sometimes even city to city.

In Kazakhstan, ‘Nauryz’ is characterized by the construction of felt yurts (traditional nomadic houses), in which a dastarkhan (a dining table) is set out; nauryz koje, a hearty soup made with seven ingredients, is almost always on the table. In Kyrgyzstan, on the eve of Nooruz, huge containers of water are brought home to symbolize good health. Traditional sports such as wrestling, horse racing and board games are common in the celebrations in this region.

For the Kurdish people, it symbolizes identity and freedom.

‘Newroz’ is celebrated among the 30 million-strong Kurdish communities in Iraq, Turkey and Syria, as well as among the ethnic Kurdish population of Iran. Apart from the general festivities, it is also a celebration of a Kurdish myth: a blacksmith named Kawa, who defeated the evil king Zuhak and freed the people from him on the eve of Newroz. As such, the holiday symbolizes not only the beginning of a new year, but also the freedom of the Kurdish people, who are the largest stateless group in the world.

In other parts of the world

After the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, most of the Persian Zoroastrians fled to India. Today, their descendants, the Parsi people, still practice Zoroastrianism and celebrate ‘Navroz’. Other minorities marking the occasion include the Turkic Uyghur people of China and the Lezgins and Tatars of southern Russia, as well as minorities in parts of the Balkans, Mongolia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Diasporas around the world also host elaborate celebrations, many of which are in US cities thanks to the country’s significant Iranian-American population. It is not surprising that exhibitions on Persian culture are opened, plays are presented or symposiums are held around Nowruz.

Las informaciones están tomadas de la página de la ONU y de la UNESCO, y las relativas a los países de Asia Central de National Geographic.