Novruz holiday is one of the most important and favorite holidays of the Azerbaijani people. It marks the arrival of spring, renewal of nature, and is celebrated on the vernal equinox, March 20-21 – the beginning of the astronomical New Year.
The origin of Novruz dates back to ancient customs, cult of nature and fertility, as well as beliefs in nature’s decline and rise. During the month leading up to Novruz, every Tuesday is devoted to celebrating nature’s four elements consecutively: water, fire, earth, and air (or wind), the last one, called “Akhir Charshanba (Last Tuesday)”, representing the time when the leaves bud out and the spring finally begins.
Samani – a symbol of Novruz
The growing of samani (green sprouting wheat) is the most sacred Novruz ceremony as the herald of spring. Sprouting samani symbolizes sowing and a rich harvest, it represents grain, bread, increase and abundance. Grain and abundance is a pledge of life, existence, the most vital material necessity for life. People have always grown samani from wheat, barley, peas, lentils or other grains in copper dishes; they have always revered it and rejoiced at its sprouting.
In the evening, children put hats under neighbors’ doors and hide, waiting for the neighbors to fill the hats with holiday favors. After the sunset people gather in the streets to kindle bonfires, dance around them, and jump over them to cleanse their souls and ward off evil spirits.
Khoncha – a holiday table
filled with sweets, nuts, candles, and other treats
One of the essential parts of the holiday table is Khoncha (xonça) – a tray filled with sweets, nuts, candles, and other treats. Each of the sweets baked for Novruz has a symbolic meaning. Pakhlava represents the four parts of the world, Goghal – the sun, Shekerbura – the moon, and the eggs painted for Novruz are a symbol of life. Samani decorates the middle of the tray and is tied with red ribbon.
The main festivities during the Novruz Holiday usually take place by the walls of the legendary Maiden Tower. The top of the tower is decorated with a huge Samani, and the beauty Bahar (spring) lights the torch installed on the tower the flame of which symbolizes the awakening of nature and life.
During the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which took place from September 28 to October 2, 2009, multinational nomination “Novruz, Nowruz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz” of Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.