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Holidays of Uzbekistan

Independence Day of Uzbek

Independence Day is the major and the most revered holiday in Uzbekistan. The country gained independence on August 31, 1991. This year the date has been celebrated for the fourteenth time. On Independence Day outdoor fetes and gala concerts take place in all cities, towns and villages of Uzbekistan. The main show is held on the huge stage of the Alisher Navoiy National Park in Tashkent. Following the president's complimentary speech addressed to the nation, there begins a grand-scale dramatic performance given by the country's best actors, singers and dancers. The night sky is illuminated with a multi-colored fireworks display. It has also become a tradition to hold a folklore festival in one of Tashkent's parks on Independence Day. During this festival ethnic cultural centers of Tashkent present folk songs, dances, arts, crafts, and cuisines of over 130 ethnic groups who live in Uzbekistan in peace and accord. After gaining independence, the residents of Uzbekistan could enjoy their civil rights only after the Constitution had been adopted. It was such an important political event for Uzbek people that in 1992 the date of December 8th was proclaimed as Constitution Day, a yearly national holiday.    

 Teacher's Day, Women's Day

The calendar of the national holidays of Uzbekistan also has Commemoration Day which is celebrated on May 9th. On this day all those Uzbekistan citizens who gave their lives for the freedom of their motherland, who bravely fought in the World War II, who selflessly worked in the home front for the sake of the victory over the fascist Germany, are commemorated. March 8th is celebrated as International Women's Day in Uzbekistan. On this day men of all ages and status show their love and respect to women, give them flowers and presents. October 1st is celebrated as the national Teacher's Day.          

 The Spring Holiday Navruz

All the peoples consider spring the time of revival, renewal, great expectations and hopes. The spring holiday Navruz is the incarnation of all this. The holiday is celebrated on March 21st, on the day of the vernal equinox. According to the oriental calendar Navruz marks the beginning of the New Year. Navruz began to be celebrated in a very distant past and has always been a pagan, folk holiday, a holiday called for by nature itself - and it remains like this till now. In the independent Uzbekistan Navruz acquired a new connotation: it has become a national holiday. The people of all the ethnic groups living in Uzbekistan celebrate this holiday with great enthusiasm. A few days before Navruz, people usually arrange khashar (voluntary and joint public work), during which they clean and decorate their cities, towns and villages. By the time Navruz begins all the preparations for the feast are completed. Navruz will have a happy life till the next Navruz. Multi-dish and sumptuous meal is the acme of the holiday, which from the earliest times has been made with the hope that the year ahead will be productive and profitable. The main dish of the feast is undoubtedly the ritual sumalyak. The residents of Uzbekistan can have it only once a year, the guests of the country might try it, if ever, once in a lifetime. Sumalyak is made from sprouts of wheat grains, symbolizing eternal life, and wheat flour. It has the consistency of a thick cream and has a pleasant distinctive taste. The dish is given as a treat to the family members, relatives, the beloved ones, guests and neighbors. According to tradition, on Navruz people forgive each other all the offences and make friends with all those they used to bust up. The poor, lonely and sick are paid visits to and are given special care and presents. Navruz is celebrated over the period of one month. The famous literary work "Navruzname", which was supposedly written by Omar Khayam, has the following momentous lines: "The one who celebrates and has fun on the day of Navruz will have a happy life till the next Navruz".  

Navruz - A Celebration of Life

Navruz (also called Noruz, Nowruz, Nowrooz, and Nawruz), the spring "New Year" holiday, has been celebrated for at least 2,500 years, and perhaps for as long as 5,000 years. Originating in Persia and long associated with the ancient Zoroastrian religion, its name means "new day" in Farsi because for ancient Persians it marked the first day of the New Year. On this day, Persian kings would have worn a crown with images of the annual solar cycle on their heads, participated in the divine mass in the Temple of Fire, and distributed generous gifts to citizens.

 Today, Navruz is celebrated each year on March 21, when the sun enters the sign of Aries on the astrological calendar. In the northern hemisphere, this date frequently coincides with the spring equinox, the day on which the number of daylight hours equals the number of nighttime hours. On our modern Gregorian calendar, the spring equinox varies from March 19 to March 21. Although their calendars were different, ancient peoples followed the course of the sun and moon closely, and knew that the seasons began to change on this date. For them, it was as if the powers of light had overcome the powers of darkness, allowing the earth to awaken and life to be rekindled. Many of us have similar feelings today, even though we understand the more scientific explanation: that the northern hemisphere begins to tilt toward the sun at this date, which results in longer and warmer days.

 As Turks and other nomadic peoples moved into Central Asia and areas around Persia, they adopted the celebration of Navruz. Just as the Saxon holiday of Ostara was embraced by Christianity and become Easter in the West, Navruz traditions, which had grown strong roots in the life of Eurasian farmers and townspeople, survived the coming of Islam to the area 1.400 years ago. Today, Navrus is celebrated widely and colorfully in Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and the western provinces of China, as well as the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq and the Tatars and Bashkirs in southern Russia. In the last ten years, the Central Asian republics have recognized Navruz as an official holiday. Its celebration is marked by concerts in parks and squares, trade fairs and national horseracing competitions.

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

Navruz traditions are similar throughout the region, and have varied little over the centuries, except to embrace Islam. Unlike the western New Year traditions, Navruz is celebrated during daytime hours within the family circle. March 21 is the main celebration, but for the next 13 days it is common practice to visit friends and relatives, buy and plant seedlings of fruit trees and have cheerful gatherings in the fresh spring air. Traditionally, it is also a time to "clean up" one's life.

 People tidy up their homes, wash rugs and draperies, decorate with flowers, and buy new clothes that they will use for visiting. On the day of Navruz, all housekeeping - including the preparation of the meal, careful cleaning of the home and the arrangement of blossoming branches from apricot, peach, almond or pomegranate trees - must be completed before the rising of the morning star. Children enjoy the holiday because they often get presents of money, as well as blessings, from their elders.

 The activities of the first 13 days of the New Year are considered harbingers of the year to come. For this reason, it is traditional to end quarrels, forgive debts and overlook enmity and insults. It is a time for reconciliation, when forgiveness and cheerfulness are the dominant sentiments. As with the celebration of the Chinese New Year, there are traditions associated with the first visitor to the house during Navruz. To ensure good luck for the coming year, this person should have a "happy foot"; he or she should be kind, gentle, witty, and pious and have a good reputation.

 In Iran and the small communities of Kurdistan, Iran and Northern India, where Zoroastrism has retained a strong influence amongst the populace, traditions require that the Navruz celebratory table contain specific elements. First, there must be a mirror, which reflects the past and shows the future so that people can make reasonable plans. Next, there must be candles. The flames hark back to the sacred nature of fire in the Zoroastrian religion, and personify the light and energy of a righteous life. The table must also contain an incense-burner for aromas and a water-filled vessel in which a live fish is placed to symbolize a happy life full of activity and movement. Most tables also include coins, fruit and a copy of a sacred book, such as the Koran. Various types of food and plants must be on the table, including seven dishes that begin with the Farsi letter "S" and seven dishes that begin with the letter "sh." These include vinegar, sumac berries, garlic, sprouted wheat, apples, berries of sea-buckthorn and fresh herbs as well as wine, sugar, syrup, honey, sweets, milk and rice.

 In the western provinces of China, both Turkish and Chinese people celebrate the holiday of Navruz by wearing bright cheerful clothes and going to the temple with flowers and a small clay figure of a buffalo. A large bamboo buffalo is constructed near the temple and covered with paper painted in red, black, white, green and yellow, which symbolize the five elements of the universe (fire, water, metal, wood and earth). Near the temple people break clay figures down and burn the bamboo buffalo.

 Central Asia has its own Navruz traditions. From ancient times, the holiday was celebrated in agricultural oases with festivals, bazaars, horseracing, and dog and cock fights. Today, Uzbeks still serve a traditional meal of "sumalyak", which tastes like molasses-flavored cream of wheat and is made from flour and sprouted wheat grains. Sumalyak is cooked slowly on a wood fire, sometimes with the addition of spices. Sprouted grain is a symbol of life, heat, abundance and health.

 On March 21, Kazakh and Kyrgyz households fumigate their homes with smoke from the burning of archa twigs (a coniferous tree of Central Asian that grows mainly in mountainous areas). This smoke is said to make malicious spirits flee. The main holiday dishes for Turkic Central Asians are pilaf (plov), shurpa, boiled mutton and kok-samsa pies filled with spring greens and the young sprouts of steppe grasses. According to tradition, people try to make the celebratory table (dastarkhan) as rich as possible with various dishes and sweets. Everyone at the table should be full and happy to ensure that the coming year will be safe and the crop will be plentiful. The holiday is accompanied by the competitions of national singers and storytellers, competitions of horsemen and fights between strong men.

 Tadjiks, whose ethnic roots are more Persian than Turkic, have slightly different traditions. In a Tadjik household, the owner of a house or his elder sons must prepare fried shish kebab and a sweet pilaf made of rice and other cereals. These dishes symbolize the wish for the coming year to be as "sweet" and happy.

 Some mountain settlements have a special custom. Before the holiday, young men will try to secretly clear out the cattle shed of a prosperous man with a marriageable daughter. If they succeed, the owner must treat them generously; however, if they fail, they must treat the owner. In Afghanistan, Navruz is called "Ruz-e-Dekhkan", the Day of the Peasant, or "Ruz-e-Nekholshoni" the Day of Planting Trees. Before going to their fields, farmers arrange parades with songs and dancing, and traditional instruments. The horns and necks of oxen that will be used for the first plowing of spring fields are sometimes rubbed with aromatic oil.

 In southern Russia, the Bashkirs probably adopted the celebration of Navruz from Persian tribes that once lived in the Ural Valley. The weather in these territories is not yet spring like in late March, so the holiday is somewhat different than in other regions. First, young men in a community collect products for the making of a common meal and embroidered "prizes" for the winners of running, dancing and singing competitions that will be held. On the day of Navruz, ceremonies are performed to cajole the natural forces and spirits of ancestors into assuring a successful new year. In addition to the common meal, each family cooks a celebratory dish from buckwheat groats and sweets.

 Throughout the world, many other cultures have long celebrated the coming of the spring equinox. In Egypt, both Moslems and Christians celebrate the coming of spring on the Monday after Coptic Easter. This holiday, called Sham el Nessim, is thought to have its roots in ancient Egypt, when it was celebrated at the spring equinox just like Navruz. Ancient Slavs, the Japanese and many Native American tribes also have historical holidays that were tied to the spring solstice. The longevity of Navruz and other spring celebrations indicates the significance we still attach to the beginning of a new agricultural year and the triumph of life and warmth over the long cold winter. So, wherever you are next March 21, celebrate life!

New Year's Day

New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are also celebrated by Uzbek people with great enthusiasm. In every family a New Year tree is decorated and a feast is prepared. Outdoor fetes take place, too. Various entertainment programs are broadcast on TV. Among the state holidays of Uzbekistan there are many religious ones. They are celebrated according to the Muslim lunar calendar. In the Soviet times these holidays were banned in Uzbekistan. But after the country became independent, these holidays were legalized and by now they have acquired really nation-wide character. One of the most significant Muslim holidays is Kurban-Khait. It is the day when the faithful should make a gratifying oblation in accordance with their personal incomes. After the ritual praying the faithful go on visits or receive guests at home. On this day those who are poor and suffering are taken a special care of.

 Ramazan-Khait

Ramazan-Khait is a holiday of moral purification and spiritual revival. This holiday comes after 30-day fast and falls at the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. During these days it is a custom to commemorate the deceased, to visit and help the sick, lonely and poor.

 There is a variety of yearly festivals held in Uzbekistan, too. They are very popular with the people and treated as holidays. One of them is the folk festival "Boysun Bakhori" ("Boisun's Spring"), which is held in the mountainous Boysun District, Surkhandarya Province. The way of life of many generations has remained almost unchanged in this area. Each family preserves and passes down from generation to generation the standards of home arrangement, old rituals, traditions and customs that date back to the age of the pre-Muslim pagan culture. In Boysun ritual songs and dances, performances of the akyn narrators of folk tales and legends continue to live their natural life, not as a theatrical performance for tourists. It is here that a thousand years ago akyn narrators composed the heroic epic "Alpamysh". The people of Boysun consider themselves to be the descendants of the legendary Alpamysh. They tell stories about him and his deeds relevant to surrounding gorges and villages. Thus it is no wonder that along with 19 other regions in the world, in 2001 Boysun District was included in the UNESCO List of "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". Every year the participants of 'Boysun's Spring' come from scores of countries. The festival attracts a lot of professional and amateur folklorists. During the festival one can travel in time and learn the ancient secrets of fire-worshippers' rituals and shaman cults, make acquaintance with the life of the distinctive region where culture and traditions of ancient peoples have been well preserved.