The Nauryz Festival is celebrated by Mongol Kazakhs throughout Mongolia.
Nauryz translates into ‘new day’ and 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 Mongol 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 2016, Nauryz was inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Hospitality is a key ingredient in the Mongol Kazakh culture and especially during Nauryz when it is considered that 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 often described by Kazakhs as ‘Ulystin uly kuni’ which means ‘the great day of the community.’ 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 a colourful community 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 – having been celebrated for potentially over 5000 years. For the Mongol Kazakhs in Mongolia, the Nauryz Festival is now a holiday of spring, work and unity that has naturally become a part of modern life whilst preserving traditions.
Why not learn more about the range of Mongolia festivals or join us on our Nauryz experience where we celebrate the Nauryz Festival with the Mongol Kazakh families we work in long-term local community partnerships with in western Mongolia? We look forward to celebrating with you. Наурыз құтты болсын!
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes