Navruz in Uzbekistan
Navruz (also called Noruz, Nowruz, Nowrooz, and Nawruz), the spring "New Year" holiday, has been celebrated for more than 2.500 years, 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 to 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 a 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 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 taken strong roots in 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 by Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq and by 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.
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