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Happy First Day of Spring!

Published: March 21, 2018

Happy First Day of Spring! Maslenitsa, the traditional Russian holiday celebrating the end of winter, has already come and gone. March 21 marks the vernal equinox, when a 24-hour day is split perfectly between day and night; on this day, Persian and Turkic communities across the globe – and in the Russian-speaking world – celebrate Navruz. The word Navruz comes from the Farsi word for “new day.”

Before 1991, Iran was the only country to officially celebrate Navruz. Navruz was banned in the Soviet Union for religious reasons, though celebrations were eventually allowed in the 1960s as a general festival welcoming spring. After the Soviet Union collapsed, many newly independent countries declared Navruz a national holiday. Today, Navruz is an official holiday in countries across Central Asia, the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and several autonomous republics within the Russian Federation. Navruz was even added to the United Nations’ List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009!

How do people around the world celebrate Navruz?

  • Preparing a special table setting! There should be plenty of food, wheat sprouts, and a tasty spring pudding (in Farsi, it's called samanu, while in Central Asia's Turkic languages, it's sumolok).
  • Organizing town-wide festivals! Because it's always more fun to stir the big pot of samanu/sumolok when you're enjoying the company of all your neighbors!
  • Jumping over a fire, to symbolize the entering the new year! 
  • And, of course, with lots of dancing!
Transporting a cauldron of sumolok for a festival in Kyrgyzstan
Jumping over a fire in Azerbaijan
Girls in Tajikistan celebrate Navruz with wheat sprouts

Navruz celebrations in Chelyabinsk, Russia