Nauryz – feast of spring renewal
In Kazakhstan spring arrives fully on 21 March – on the special day when Nauryz is celebrated, signifying not only the spring equinox but also renewal of nature. Nauryz in Kazakhstan symbolizes fertility, friendship and love. On this special day people dress up, visit close people and keep wishing well. For eastern nations, Nauryz is the same as New Year, as both holidays are messengers of a new life. Even the name of the holiday “Nauryz” is translated from Farsi as “new day”.
Nauryz is a holiday that was celebrated before Islam; it was a remnant of memory form pagan ancestors when they honored natural cults. So, for example, in India they celebrate Lori – the last day of cold winter, in Egypt they call the beginning of spring as Jam en-Nessim, in Israel they celebrate Tu bi-shvat that is the season of rain, in Iceland there is Sumarsdag – day of arrival of summer. Nauryz has no relation to religion, on this day people all around Kazakhstan sing and dance, and take part in national games and merrymaking.
On Nauryz it is a must to have a traditional festive dish nauryz-koje on the table. Kazakhs believe that one should eat much of this dish on Nauryz, then your year will be in prosperity. Nauryz-koje is a nutritional rich soup that is cooked from 7 ingredients: meat, water, flour, butter, millet (could be replaced with rice or corn), salt and milk. Each component of the dish symbolizes one of the seven life beginnings: growth, luck, happiness, wealth, health, wisdom and sky auspices. Nauryz is full of symbols. So, the number 7 has its special meaning in celebrating Nauryz – seven ingredients in nauryz-koje, that is afterwards poured into seven bowls and is laid in front of wise old men-aksakals. Each person should invite seven guests and should visit other seven houses.
On Nauryz they drink kumys – dairy product made of horse milk. Traditionally on this day they congratulate by saying “Koktem tudi!” Also there are many contests of wit-poets held on this holiday, that are called "akins" in Kazakhstan; the feast cannot be without national contests among which is national wrestling "kazaksha-gures", logic game called "toguz kumalak" and of course horse games "kyz-kuu" and "bayga". Theatrical staged performances are played in the streets. Another old Nauryz tradition is "altybakan", where girls and boys gather together to socialize and ride on the swings.
Nauryz is not only a state holiday in Kazakhstan that is celebrated for three days, but also acknowledged by UN as an International Holiday. Nauryz is celebrated in all countries of Central Asia, as well as Georgia, India, Iran, China, Turkey and others.