Navruz: Celebrating Spring in Central Asia and Beyond

Navruz: Celebrating Spring in Central Asia and Beyond

Navruz isn’t just for the Middle East anymore.

It’s celebrated from Tashkent to Tehran, London to L.A., Bukhara to Bloomington, and from Samarkand to Seattle. Call it what you want: Novruz, Nowruz, Nooruz, Navruz. They all point to the same thing: celebrating the return of spring and the beginning of a new year.

Navruz picnic in the park in Tehran, Iran <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Navruz picnic in the park in Tehran, Iran
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Central Asian fashion show at Seattle's Navruz celebration <br>Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Central Asian fashion show at Seattle’s Navruz celebration
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

From Darkness to LightOriginally the holiest of ancient Iran’s Zoroastrian religious celebrations, Navruz means “new day.” Ancient people closely followed the cycle of the moon and sun, and noticed that when hours of daylight roughly started to equal the hours of darkness, the seasons changed and new life was born. The Persians celebrated the start of a new year at this time.

Even today, these celebrations incorporate the idea of new life; it’s believed that a person’s behaviors for the thirteen days following Navruz set the tone for the upcoming year. That’s why people settle arguments, pay off debts, and visit their friends during this time.

Springtime symbols decorate this Navruz table in Tehran, Iran <br>Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Springtime symbols decorate this Navruz table in Tehran, Iran
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

One-of-a-Kind CelebrationNavruz is celebrated throughout Central Asia, Iran, Azerbaijan, parts of the North Caucasus, the Crimean Peninsula, and parts of China, as well as in some Western cities. Each country has its unique way of observing Navruz, but all share in feasting, singing, and traditional dancing.

Central Asian dancing is a mainstay in Navruz celebrations <br>Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Central Asian dancing is a mainstay in Navruz celebrations
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Emiko and her Central Asian dancers perform at Seattle's Navruz festival <br>Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Emiko and her Central Asian dancers perform at Seattle’s Navruz festival
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Plov, salads, fruits, nuts, desserts and tea are always on the Navruz menu. In Uzbekistan, people eat sumalaq, a grain dish made of flour and wheat sprouts and symbolizing eternal life. In Tajikistan it’s sweet pilaf, representing wishes for a sweet new year, while in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan people burn archa twigs to rid the house of evil spirits. In Iran, people place a mirror on the table to reflect both the past and future.

Plov - and all its variations - is the main course at Navruz gatherings <br>Photo credit: Russ and Ellen Cmolik

Plov – and all its variations – is the main course at Navruz gatherings
Photo credit: Russ and Ellen Cmolik

Specially baked Uzbek breads<br>Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Specially baked Uzbek breads
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Somsa is a favorite appetizer at Central Asian celebrations <br>Photo credit: Vladimir Ushakov

Somsa is a favorite appetizer at Central Asian celebrations
Photo credit: Vladimir Ushakov

Save the DateIn 2017, Navruz is celebrated on March 21, the day of the spring vernal equinox.  Several U.S. cities celebrating Navruz include Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Jose, and Bloomington, Indiana.


Travel to Central Asia with MIRLearn more about MIR tours that travel to places celebrating Navruz, such as Central Asia and Iran.  You can also book a custom private journey.

 (Top photo: Celebrating Navruz with a Central Asian fashion show in Seattle. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes)

PUBLISHED: February 11, 2015

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