ASTANA – Nauryz is the celebration of the New Year on the solar astronomical calendar for Persian and Turkic peoples. Nauryz is also a national tradition in Kazakhstan, restored to its full glory during the late 1980s.
The origin of this holiday, which has no direct relationship to Islamic traditions, is rooted in the pre-literate era of human history. It acquired an official status in the Achaemenid Empire as a religious holiday of Zoroastrianism. It continued to be celebrated after the Islamic conquests until the present time. In modern times, it is celebrated in days of the vernal equinox.
Nauryz is a very important holiday for Kazakhs as it marks the beginning of a traditional new year. Under the current law, it is celebrated for at least three days starting March 21, the day of the spring equinox. This year, because of the holidays falling on a weekend, the Nauryz is to be celebrated over five days, from March 21 to March 25.
Nauryz means “new day” and symbolises goodness and wealth, happiness and love. It is also a day that unites because it is celebrated by many nations.
During Nauryz celebrations, past offenses are forgiven and forgotten and everybody makes a wish to leave negativity behind and bring renewal to the New Year.
During the Nauryz holiday in Kazakhstan, large and small cities, as well as villages become festival centres, felt yurts – traditional nomad houses – are erected in city centres and a rich dastarkhan (table) is laid down in each of them.
City squares are filled with yurts and live performances. Visitors can learn about Kazakh culture, the lifestyle of nomads and see people wearing beautiful traditional clothing. They can also listen to Kazakh songs and play national musical instruments. Traditional gifts and souvenirs are also sold in the squares.
Young people usually also gather around Altybakan, a large hanging swing with colourful decorations, where songs are sung and traditional games are played. During Nauryz, many famous stars also give concerts in cities and the holiday is completed with fireworks.
The main dish served during Nauryz is Nauryz kozhe, which is also the main symbol of the holiday. Nauryz kozhe is special for its unique recipe. Traditionally, seven ingredients are added to Nauryz kozhe. They vary, but usually include water, meat, salt, milk or yoghurt, one type of grain, chosen from rice, corn or wheat and others. Seven ingredients symbolise seven virtues, such as joy, success, intelligence, health, wealth, agility and security.
During the celebration, the kozhe is offered to all guests in any Kazakh city or village. Other traditional Kazakh meals, such as beshbarmak, kuyrdak, baursaks and many types of meals made from milk (yoghurt, kurt, cream, butter and cheese) are also offered.
Between 1926-1988, when Kazakhstan was a Soviet Socialistic Republic, Nauryz was not officially celebrated in the republic. In 2009, three days beginning each March 21 were declared national holidays in Kazakhstan.
On Sept. 30, 2009, Nauryz was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO. Since then, March 21 has been known as the International Day of Nauryz.