The Nauryz Festival is celebrated by Kazakhs throughout Mongolia. Nauryz translates into ‘new day’ – March 21 is officially recognized as International Nauryz Day, though the holiday itself is celebrated between March 19 and 22, depending on calendars and vernal equinox calculations. Nauryz is considered the first day of the spring equinox and is a celebration not only about spring but about renewal as well. Nauryz is not only a state holiday for Kazakhs in Mongolia, but it is also celebrated in all countries of Central Asia, as well as Georgia, India, Iran, China, Turkey and others. In 2009, Nauryz was included in the (bit of a mouthful) Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Hospitality is a key ingredient in the Kazakh culture (the more generous the celebration of Nauryz, the happier the year will be). An important tradition practised during this time is the gathering around ‘the table’ to enjoy a special meal with loved ones. The table is decorated with objects that symbolise purity, brightness, livelihood and wealth. Kazakh families feast on Nauryz koje – a soup specially prepared for Nauryz. Kazakhs believe that you should eat as much of this soup as possible for your year to be prosperous. It is delicious – a nutritional rich soup that is cooked from seven 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 auspiciousness.
The Nauryz Festival is seen as a messenger of a new life. During Nauryz people dress up, visit close family members and friends – particularly the elderly and neighbours – and gifts are exchanged, especially for children. There are also street performances of music and dance and traditional sports. These practices support cultural diversity and tolerance and contribute to building community solidarity and peace. They are transmitted from older to younger generations through observation and participation.
(In western Mongolia both a parade is held in Ulgii – the provincial capital of Bayan Ulgii Aimag as well informal eagle festivals taking place in local rural communities.)
And what you might not know is that Nauryz is considered one of the oldest festivals on earth – it having been celebrated for potentially over 5000 years. For Kazakhs in Mongolia, the Nauryz Festival is now a holiday of spring, work and unity that has naturally become a part of the modern life, preserving the old traditions.
Why not learn more about the range of Mongolia festivals or join us on our March 13th Nauryz experience where we celebrate the Nauryz Festival with the Kazakh families we work in long-term local community partnership with in western Mongolia. We look forward to celebrating with you.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes