This article concerns the Navruz Festival in the Republic of Uzbekistan which is one of the most interesting folk festivals in the country which was attended by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan at the celebrations in Tashkent on March 21, 2018—Ed.
When the parks are filled with the hubbub of the birds and the buds on the trees swell, when springs and irrigation ditches wake up from hibernation, the long-awaited holiday of spring Navruz comes to Uzbekistan. It is always celebrated on the vernal equinox, on the 21st of March.
Navruz, which has a history of more than three thousand years, is the most precious and dear, the Eastern New Year with its renewal, the beginning of spring, the nature of people of Uzbekistan, its consciousness, deep in the heart, bringing joy to every family and every home and is a beloved national holiday.
Navruz is the most important holiday in the development of Uzbek national spirituality. On this day, special attention is paid to spring dishes and various national games in every corner of the Uzbekistan. In particular, our national dishes such as “Sumalak”, “Halim”, “Ko’ksomsa”, “Ko’kchuchvara” will be the highlight of the holiday table. Especially “Sumalak” feasts have a special flavor.
Navruz is a spring festival or New Year. The term "Navruz" is composed of two Persian words "nav" (new) and "ruz" (day), that is the first starting day of the most momentous holiday of the Aryans.
Navruz is tied to the natural environmental conditions of the continent and the actual astronomical events. The holiday marks the joyous awakening of every living thing after winter, when farmers begin sowing season.
The spring New Year's holiday - Navruz, originated in Khorasan (a historical region of Iran) over 3000 years ago, almost simultaneously with the origination of agriculture, spread to all neighboring countries.
Originally the festival of Navruz was the custom among farmers, and then through them it became the custom of settled and nomadic Turkic peoples. Over the centuries traditions of different nations to hold Navruz adapted to their way of life and ideology.
The origin of the festival is ancient Iranian and associated with the sun worship and the name of the legendary soothsayer Zarathustra. On this day the ancient Persian kings put on a crown on their heads, demonstrating a picture of solar annual cycle, participated in veneration in the Temple of Fire and handed round generous gifts to nationals. Later, "the spring" New Year became popular among the majority of peoples of Central Asia, not only Iranian-speaking, but also Turkish, who was influenced by Zoroastrian culture.
Navruz is a new life, new anticipations, and the people’s smile. The brighter Navruz will be, the more generous nature will reward people in the New Year.
Today Navruz Celebration in Uzbekistan
Navruz holiday in Uzbekistan is music of karnays, joyous voices of children in nice clothes on their way to a holiday in the morning, set up tables in homes as a symbol of abundance and hospitality. There are many traditions, precisely handed down from one generation to another, which are coupled with this holiday.
How Navruz in Uzbekistan is solemnized in our day? It is celebrated in a circle of kinsmen and pals. Following the main day - March 21, there are 13 public holidays, when there is a rule to act as host, as well as to walk-in guests. During the holidays young fruit trees are traditionally planted in orchards and parks.
Residents of cities and towns of Uzbekistan are preparing for Navruz in advance. In each makhalla (neighborhood community) khashars (joint work) are held. People give the city or village a proper festive look.
On Nowruz the tables should be served in a special abundantly. There is an omen - the richer the table, the richer the whole coming year will be. The holiday-like menu is of utmost significance. The main fest dishes: pilaf, shurpa, samsa from the first spring greens should be cooked. Also plenty of snacks, sweet stuff and fruit should be on the table.
The main holiday dishes of Navruz
There are three main dishes of Navruz. These are “Sumalak”, “Ko’ksomsa” and “Halim”.
The fun of the fair on Navruz day is a plate with germinated wheat! This dish is necessarily present on every festive table.
From the seeds of sprouted wheat sumalak - the main festive treat is cooked. “Sumalak” is cooked in a special way; it's a real ritual, in which only women participate. During the process women dance, sing songs.
“Sumalak” is prepared for twenty-four hours. The women slowly stir sprouted wheat grains in a huge pot. The grains gradually transform into a thick viscous brown mass. During the stirring in the boiler one can hear interesting sounds. Small pebbles or nuts, which are well washed, especially placed on the bottom of the boiler at the beginning of cooking “Sumalak” in order it does not burn during cooking. Well, if this stone or a nut will be in your bowl of “Sumalak”, you should rejoice, because the whole year will be successful and happy for you!
After cooling, dainties are served. It is assumed that the image, which will appear on the surface of “Sumalak” one can determine that a new year promises, and the dish itself gives people physical and spiritual forces.
There is a popular belief that this recipe was invented by the first people inhabiting Central Asia during the relentless winter. According to one legend, the cold was intense, and almost out of food stocks and settlers could do nothing but cook sprouted wheat grains, along with all the products that they had. This dish helped them to escape from hunger and add strength. Since “Sumalak” has been prepared every year.
It is no coincidence that “Ko’ksomsa”contain vitamins that provide the most necessary energy to the human body. It takes a lot of work from our ladies to prepare it. First the dough is kneaded. Then the preparation of the ingredients inside begins.
“Halim” is one of ancient national dishes made from wheat and beef. National dishes, which cure a thousand ailments, give a special mood and splendor to the Navruz table.
Traditional ceremonies during Nowruz
The composition of haft sina is one of the traditional Navruz rituals. The holiday table must have on it seven (‘haft’) foods, the names of which begin with the Persian letter ‘sin’: rue seeds (‘siland’), apples (‘seb’), black seeds (‘siahdane’), wild olives (‘sanjid’), vinegar (‘sirke’), garlic (‘sir’) and sprouting grains (‘sabzi’).
The greater diversity of food there will be on people’s holiday tables, the more crops the following year will bring. The dishes that are invariably found on the holiday table are pilaf (also spelled pilaff, plov, pilau, pilav, polow, pulaw, pulao), shurpa, boiled mutton and kok-samsa (pasties filled with young herbs), together with food symbolising revival and a new life, such as sprouting wheat grains, boiled eggs and others.
For the next 13 days that follow 21 March people visit their relatives, neighbours and friends, organise joyful festivities, holiday bazaars and sports competitions, plant young trees and start working in the field.
According to popular belief, the first guest of the New Year should have a soft and good character, a good sense of humor, a kind name and reputation, and most importantly - to have a "happy foot", that is, to bring stroke to the house.
Since ancient times, in Uzbekistan on Navruz customs were arranged. Many Nowruz traditions have survived until today.
Here for example, such an unusual and, alas, forgotten rite - gulgardoni (walking with flowers). Snowdrops are symbol of the New Year. They need to gather in the early morning, and then to tie to a long pole. With these poles boys go to the neighbors and congratulate them, and the neighbors treat them with goodies.
With Nowruz a loved by the people an ancient traditional game kupkari is linked. The goal is to snatch the lamb from the hands of the enemy and with this trophy gallop to the finish line. The grand prize is awarded to the winner by respected elders.
People believe that angels descend upon the earth on the days of Navruz to bring the people wealth and make them happy. However, they visit only those homes filled with peace and harmony, which is why people try to forget about hostility, grievances and others’ debts.
And, whether it is Navruz or the warm spring sun that makes people actually brighter and kinder, but they really become so, and each longs to return to their roots, feeling happy at seeing new green grass and the smallest awakening bugs, in a word, loving with all their heart their own life and the New one that is just beginning around them.
Navruz is a holiday, which is being waited for impatiently, because it's the end of the harsh winter, the beginning of a new life when in advance there are only warm sunny days. The trip to Uzbekistan in this holiday is a great opportunity to get to know the culture, cuisine and fun of the locals.
You can also take part in the cooking of festive dishes “Sumalak”. You will be able to think of your fondest wish, throwing into the cauldron a walnut or a small pebble. We assure that it will not boring!