New Year in Azerbaijan
New Year in Azerbaijan is an official public holiday and one of the most anticipated celebrations of the year, a joyous time celebrated with relatives and friends.
Since the majority of Azerbaijanis are Muslim, New Year was traditionally observed on Novruz, the day of the vernal equinox (March 21). Western New Year celebrations began only after Azerbaijan fell under the protectorate of the Russian Empire in the 19th century and Russian settlers began immigrating to the land.
Western traditions gradually seeped into the local culture, but it was not until Azerbaijan was absorbed into the Soviet Union that New Year was declared an official Azerbaijani holiday by Moscow. Following the country’s independence, the newly created International Solidarity Day began to be observed on December 31, while January 1 remained an official day for the celebration of New Year.
New Year in Azerbaijan mirrors the holiday as it is observed in most post-Soviet countries. During preparations for the festivities, Azerbaijanis decorate their homes with an evergreen tree referred to as a New Year tree, a tradition which came to Azerbaijan from Russia. The celebration culminates in a splendid feast on the evening of December 31, at which children receive gifts from Shakhta Baba (Father Frost) and Karkyz (Snow Maiden).
Today, this national holiday in Azerbaijan has been acculturated to reflect local values. As Azerbaijanis are very hospitable and family-oriented, the majority of them celebrate New Year among close relatives and friends. At the obligatory New Year feast prepared on December 31, tables sag under the weight of national dishes and bottles of wine. Once the clock strikes midnight, spectacular firework shows erupt all throughout the country, with the best ones taking place at Baku Boulevard in the capital. The following day is a non-working day that people use either to rest or to continue in celebration. Occasionally, the government grants an extra day or two for further celebrations.