In ancient times, Kazakh nomads lived in houses called yurts in the steppes. During that period they had no idea of the existence of compasses, calendars, and time was determined by the lunar, solar, or eastern calendar. Kazakhs determined spring coming by the sun when the warm rays penetrated into the yurts’ tents through the upper hole.
According to the old chronology, the holiday occurred on the same day every year: March 21st. Kazakhs called the month of March Nauryz. It was believed that this is the day of renewal in nature, the first spring thunder, swelling buds on the trees, and sprouting greenery.
This festival dates back to being celebrated from Persia. In Shahnameh, the great historical work of the Persian poet Abulkasym Fersowsi, the word Nauryz is translated as “a new day” and was considered as the beginning of a new year.
Today, Nauryz is celebrated by people of the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan and China. Also, Nauryz is celebrated by Muslims in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Russia.
For Kazakhs, as well as other people who celebrate Nauryz, the festival is a symbol of spring renewal, the triumph of love, fertility, and friendship. Before Nauryz begins, people try to clean their houses, plant trees, and plant flowers. It is believed that a generous feast of Nauryz brings the house abundance and success in the coming year.
Kazakhs have their own name for this holiday to be used together with the standard one: “Ulystyn uly kuni” – a great day for people. This highlights the importance of the Nauryz and the unity of the people. The main traditional dish, Nauryz koje, consists of seven ingredients: water, meat, salt, fat, flour, grains (rice, corn or wheat) and milk representing the seven elements of life: joy, luck, wisdom, health, wealth, speed, height, and divine protection. The sheer number of ingredients is also not by chance because the number 7 is believed to have certain magical properties in Turks tradition.
During the celebration of Nauryz there are great events organized in Kazakhstan such as poetry readings, concerts using the national instrument (the dombra), as well as sports competitions and theater performances.
In 2001, the Nauryz celebration was added to the list of official holidays of Kazakhstan. Visiting Kazakhstan during Nauryz is surely a fascinating time to visit our country and get familiar with the local culture.
By Moldir Nurazkhan – Nazarbayev University student