Nowruz: Dancing Between Cultures

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

Nowruz means “New Day”, is widely referred to as the Persian New Year. Every year millions of people worldwide celebrate the arrival of spring with the festive Nowruz Holiday. Its celebration period varies from country to country and from region to region i.e. from March 20/21. It lasts for thirteen days in many parts of the world.

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Messenger of Peace

Nowruz is a messenger of peace, friendship, benevolence for the humankind and admiration for the nature not only for Iranians, but for several nations and tribes who adorn this ancient festivity and celebrate it. It is an opportunity for rethinking, restarting and remaking. It is a cultural event by which human beings are interconnected and independent actors in the amphitheater of globalization.

It is officially celebrated in Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan; Albania; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Georgia; Iraq; Iraqi Kurdistan; Kazakhstan; Kosovo; Kyrgyzstan; Russia; Syria; Tajikistan; Turkey and Turkmenistan.

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United Nation’s Secretary General Statement 2014

He said that Nowruz is a reminder of the values and aspirations we all share for peace through tolerance, respect and mutual understanding.

“Expressed in a rich array of ways across the world, Nowruz embodies the power of cultural heritage to build bridges between people,” he continued, adding that festival also celebrates diversity as a strength and as the foundation for a more peaceful and sustainable world.

“On this International Day of Nowruz, I call on every woman and man to carry forward this message of peace, unity and renewal that stands at the heart of the mission of the United Nations and at the heart of the Nowruz celebrations.”

Common Event of Joy, Togetherness and Celebration

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It is one of the common events of joy, togetherness and celebration for many ethnic and religious groups worldwide: the Kurdish and Iranian Diaspora Zoroastrians, Sufis, Ismailis, Alevis, Alawites, Babis and Bahais. It is also observed unofficially in Bosnia; Caucasus; Crimea; India; Macedonia; Pakistan; Serbia and among Uyghurs and Salars of China.

Silk Road Countries

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Celebrations of spring are a natural outgrowth of the Earth’s rhythms. In most of the Silk Road countries, Nowruz announces the joyful awakening of nature after winter and the beginning of the agricultural cycle of cultivating, planting, and harvesting.

Sense of Belonging

Turkey and Central Asians Countries also celebrate the Nowruz with the same enthusiasm and sense of belonging. Perhaps it is the universal nature of the message of Nowruz that speaks to its wealth of rites and customs as well as to its being identified as the unique fount of continuity of the Iranian culture.

Sign of Happiness and Virtue

It is a sign of happiness. It stands for virtue. It speaks about connectivity. It spreads energy. It is a time of light and fire. Young boys and girls take the ashes of the fire and throw it far from their houses, meaning that they’re throwing away all the misfortunes of their family with the ashes.

Democratic Philosophy

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It has democratic philosophy, because it is not just a holiday that marks the vernal equinox; it is a holiday that marks people’s equality. Bringing together different sections of the population, Nowruz strengthens mutual esteem, mutual understanding, and social cohesion. It tells the importance of co-existence and humanity.

Ideal Combination of Religion and Ritual

It tells about ancient traditions, heritages and cultures belonging around the globe. It is one of the ideal combinations of religions and rituals. It represents colours of life, hope of the survival, dreams of good days and the last but not the least, thankfulness of nature i.e. God. It is related to economy and stock-rearing is to tie a red ribbon, usually reserved for weddings, around the horns of bulls, cows, and sheep. It is forbidden to kill horses, dogs, and even snakes on this holiday.

Season of Rebirth

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It is the season of rebirth. It is the ideal season of marriages and love making. The number of weddings increases during Nowruz in all the Central Asian Countries and Middle East Region. People believe that families formed during this season will be happy ones. Boys born during the holiday season are often called Nowruz, while girls are called Bahar, which means ‘spring’.

Awakening of Natural Life

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It shows the eternal power of humanity, simplicity, devoution and above all struggle over darkness, faulty-lines and greediness. It symbolizes the awakening of natural life and the victory of good over the evil forces of darkness, represented by the winter, this holiday is the time when the cold winter finally begins to retreat, giving way to the lively and hopeful spring.

Universal Cross-Culture Forum

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Cross-Culture knowledge and a global focus are crucial to survive and to thrive. Cultural celebrations and festivals are common to people all over the world. The new concept “the dance between cultures” is the main theme of Nowruz which rightly projects the importance of interfaith harmony/dialogue, respect for multi-ethnicity and value to think beyond self-fabricated notions, taboos and stigmas about others in order to achieve global peace, harmony, stability and sustainability. It gives best knowledge about other’s cultures, human psychology, national traits, physical cores, ethnicity and religion.

These events celebrate different historical and cultural practices and share some important community functions. Often holidays like these bring together families and communities, and introduce new generations to traditional food, dance, music and handicrafts. It is a meaningful holiday which could significantly promote global peace and justice. It will not only promote cultural values, but it will also help nations establish relations based on friendship, peace, justice and respect.

Cultural Uniqueness

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It identifies different aspects of cultural uniqueness. It is always a humanizing experience that encourages the appreciation of diversity. It provide a unique opportunity to people from the different faiths, ideologies, beliefs and religions meet one and other and feel at home. It is the icon of development, collectiveness, cleanness and the last but not the least, respectfulness. It is a promise and pledge of a human being to be honest, hardworking and decent towards others in the days to come.

Feast to Welcome Spring

It is a grand feast to welcome spring. It is day of festivity, friendship, parties, and picnics and shopping. It is also the day if flowers, foods, and families. It is a day of comfort, closeness and coolness. Last but not the least, it features arts, crafts, miniature, books, photographs, paintings, feature films, group recitation of the Holy Quran, Naats and devotional folk music of native land.

Similarities

Activities that celebrate the arrival of Nowruz share many similarities with other spring festivals such as Easter, celebrated by Christians, and the Egyptian holiday called Sham Al-Naseem, which dates back to the time of the Pharaohs.

Wide Range of Festivities

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Traditionally, wide range of festivities is celebrated in the different parts of the world and especially in Middle East Region and Central Asian Countries. It begins with spring cleaning, or ‘Khouneh Tekouni’, literally ‘shaking the house,’ or ‘complete cleaning of the house in preparation for the New Year; the purchase of new clothes and the purchase of flowers. The holiday’s season reaches at its climax on the 12th day. Now families dress up and visit the elders of their family, then others and finally their friends. On the final day they leave their homes and picnic outdoors. Painted eggs are often used to represent fertility.

Different Unique Traditions

Nowruz has different unique traditions mainly ‘Haft Chin’ and ‘Haft Seen’. The word ‘Haft Chin’ is derived from the word Chin meaning ‘to place’ and Haft the number 7. The items are: mirror (symbolising sky) apple (earth) candles (fire) rose water (water) ‘sabzi’ (vegetables and plants) goldfish (animals) and painted eggs (humans and fertility) placed in a prominent position inside the home. An ancient Novruz tradition is to burn uzarlik (rue), which provides protection from the evil eye and negative energy. Its smoke is wafted over the children, house, cattle, and pets. It is traditionally believe that at the moment the New Year’s day arrives, you should go into the yard or stand at an open window and make a wish.

Importance of Haft Seen’ or the seven ‘S’s

It a traditional table setting of ‘Nowruz’ which includes seven items starting with the letter ‘S’ or ‘seen’ in the Persian alphabet. ‘sabze’/plants (symbolizing rebirth) ‘samanu’ (affluence) ‘senjed’ (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree/love) sir/garlic (medicine) sib/apples (beauty and health) sumac berries (the colour of sunrise) and ‘serkeh’/vinegar (age and patience.)

Nowruz’s Dishes

New Year dishes include ‘Sabzi Polo Mahi’ the traditional meal with rice and green herbs served with fish; ‘Reshteh Polo’: rice cooked with noodles; ‘Dolme Barg’ includes some vegetables, meat and rice which have been cooked and embedded in grape leaves and cooked again; ‘Kookoo sabzi’: Herbs and vegetable ‘souffle’.

Northern Pakistan

In Northern Pakistan (Chitral, Gilgit, Baltistan) because of the Ismaili majority population, Nowruz is celebrated as a socio-religious festival. The origins of the festival are pre-Islamic and date back to when Pakistan was part of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persian empires. On March 15th, 2010, the United States House of Representatives passed the Nowruz Resolution by a 384-2 vote, ‘Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz.’ describing it as ‘a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.’

Uzbekistan and Nowruz

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Uzbekistan President joined nationwide festivities on the occasion of Nowruz Holiday on March 21. For the occasion, Uzbek President Islam Karimov attended a big party in a Tashkent arena, replete with choreographed performances, giant balloons, and spontaneous dancing from officials.

The land of Uzbekistan welcomes the Nowruz in its inimitable beauty, with a spring breeze and the blossom of snowdrops and tulips. In Uzbekistan it is a symbol of clear skies, rebirth of the nature, love, and it is a hymn of life. The air around smells sumalak, here and there you can hear a proud roar of horses getting ready for the ulak-kupkari, the gambling cries of palvans, and a tender laughter of gorgeous girls and young women.

Symbol of Unity

Everything around is full of life. The spring finds a response in the heart of every person. The people are overfilled with the childish joy of renewal, creation and neatness. It is the symbol of the power of nature, unity, creation and grace in Uzbekistan.

Main Event at National Park of Uzbekistan

This year, in Alisher Navoi National Park of Uzbekistan a grand festival was arranged on March 19 in which the lawmakers, government members, figures of science, culture, sports and arts, advanced people of the production sphere, entrepreneurs, veterans, representatives of embassies of foreign nations and international organizations accredited actively participated.

President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov entered the square accompanied by a storm of applause from the participants of the festive event. The President congratulated the people of Uzbekistan on the Navruz, a holiday of renewal, beauty, love and compassion.

President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov’s Speech

The president of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov delivered a speech in Alisher Navoi National Park. Deputies of Houses of Parliament, cabinet officers, artists, scientists, sportsmen and other celebrities, enterprisers, best workers and veterans also were attended the said event.

The President said: “Our people welcomes Nowruz with great enthusiasm and hopes, respecting it as an ancient, purely national holiday, which has got deep philosophical and symbolical meaning. Concepts of Nowruz are consonant with our customs and traditions, which have been developing for thousands of years, since the time of “Avesta”.

The President Islam Karimov says such attitude towards Nowruz symbolizes deep respect to great and ancient history of Uzbek people, country’s rich culture and legacy of the past. The President also emphasized that people of Uzbekistan have always “wanted the sky over their Motherland to be clear and peaceful, and life – prosperous and steady. They also wish all this to other nations”.

“Country’s progress depends on youth potential, starving of young people for knowledge, harmonious and balanced development. Nothing but this will help Uzbekistan to take rightful place among high-developed democratic countries of the world he further added.

He appreciated the young people; consider them to be towers of strength, decisive force of today and tomorrow. He promised that his state will mobilize all resourses and opportunities in order to let young people of Uzbekistan be spiritually mature and healthy.

Unforgettable Moments of the Souls

The National Park was decorated with colorful flags, balloons and live flowers. It welcomed the start of the holiday, festivities, under the sounds of karnays and surnays. At these unforgettable moments, the souls of Uzbekistan’s people are overfilled with joy and a sense of gratitude for the invaluable gifts of life, peaceful and harmonious life of the people and country.

Country-wide Celebrations

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In Uzbekistan from centuries people have met the awakening of the nature, the start of a new year with immense celebration, big hopes, clear heart and kind intentions, and crucially the creative labor. After all, cleanness and order bring about abundance and health. It is widely celebrated this year also across all cities and villages, auls and mahallas with folk festivities.

President Islam Karimov’s Resolution

President Islam Karimov’s resolution on the arrangement of nationwide celebration of the holiday Navruz in the year 2014, signed 24 February of the current year, has become a guide for action in efforts to organize worthwhile celebration of most important and truly nationwide festival.

In accordance with the resolution, wide-ranging endeavors are underway in every corner of the nation under a motto “May every day of ours be like Navruz!” to hold the holiday in line with national values in the form of folk sayils (street festivities).

Nation-wide Campaign of Beautification and Landscaping

A nation-wide campaign of diversified dynamic works has been initiated throughout the country in beautification and landscaping. Following cold winter days, residential quarters were put in order.

Nationwide Charity

A nationwide charity hasher was organized on March 15. The collective efforts were assigned to cleaning and beautification of mahallas and streets, squares and gardens, enterprises and organizations. Shrines and cemeteries were made neat, and fruit and decorative trees as well as flowers were planted. Visits were arranged to low-income families, lonely elders, people with disabilities. It is the true reflection of the sense of love and compassion, care for the needy, as well as humanism have come to be priority ideals in our society. Moreover, the state welcomes the children, holders of our future. Their exciting songs and dances glorify the beautiful and happy childhood. This care was manifest on the announcement of the year 2014 as the one of the Healthy Child at the initiative of President Islam Karimov.

Special Festivities

In Uzbekistan this year, a special significance is attached to performances of artistic and folk-ethnographic groups of the Republic of Karakalpakstan and provinces of the country. It contains the demonstration of national customs, lapars, songs and dances of each region, askiya, bakhshi contests, along with performances of artistic teams of the numerous ethnic cultural centers in our country.

Peace and Tranquility

Nowruz stands for peace and tranquility and the Uzbekistan is the land of peace and harmony. It is the castle of social justice and development too. Since its independence under the leadership of President Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan achieved a remarkable pace of socio-economic development and political maturity. The peaceful life, interethnic harmony, the environment of mutual respect and cohesion constitute the foundation for Uzbekistan’s colossal accomplishments admired across the world on its way of independent development.

Nowruz Consolidates the Interests of People

During Nowruz season Uzbekistan’s people come closer to the nature. It consolidates the confidence in that everything is being done in this country to further the interests of people, development and prosperity of the native land, wellbeing of the nation. The performances of masters of arts, young singers who glorify the native land, the independence, the holiday of rebirth and youth, find a deep reflection in the hearts of those present at the square. The beautiful melodies, inspiring dances, and the truly magic action grant everybody a genuinely spring bliss. At these fabulous moments, people souls are overfilled with the sense of love and devotion to the Motherland, kindness and generosity.

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