Tehran, 24 March 2006 (CHN) -- Norouz, pronounced Nov-ruz meaning new day is back again on the calendar as the most important national holiday in the Republic of Azerbaijan after having been prohibited for 70 years under the Soviet leadership. The day itself marks the spring Solstice (around March 21st), the coming of spring.
The celebration of Norouz dates to ancient times, perhaps even predating formalized religions and commemorates the annual sowing of corps in anticipation of bountiful harvest. Originally the holiday marked the first day of the solar year however when Azerbaijan came under the Soviet rule, New Year's Day was introduced as January 1st, a custom which continues to this day.
Despite the fact that the Soviets forbade any official celebration, Azerbaijanis have always observed the date as their greatest and most important holiday even though they sometimes had to celebrate it discreetly inside their homes. But even under the Soviet regime they succeeded in observing Norouz officially for a brief two-year period in 1967-68. At that time the holiday was celebrated openly in the streets, squares, parks, gardens, and on radio and television.
The people in Azerbaijan have deep enthusiasm and interest in celebrating Norouz; therefore, they make various arrangements to welcome the ancient tradition. They compose songs, plan puzzles, praises and curses, proverbs and advice, wits, prepare the Norouz ceremonial setting (Haft Seen), etc.
Buying new cloths, performing the season cleaning, weaving new carpets and floor covers are among the customs fulfilled prior to Norouz. Also, people pay more attention than ever to superstitious beliefs such as fortune telling; for instance, on the eve of last Wednesday of the year, young single girls would make a wish and hide themselves behind a half open door. They believe that should the first words heard be favorable, their wish would come true in the new year. This encourages the people to avoid backbiting and reminding unpleasant things as much as possible.
Norouz is always associated with the beautifully green color of new growth and is specially symbolized by the growing of freshly sprouted wheat or samani as Azerbaijanis in the Republic (North) refer to it. Typically a Norouz table is prepared with various items that vary somewhat from region to region. In the North the table typically includes fresh flowers, candles, sweets and pastries, nuts, dried fruits, and dried eggs.
Southern Azerbaijan celebrates Norouz as the first day of the calendar. Traditionally they set the table with at least seven items all of which begin with the sound of s. These items include some green plants, typically the newly sprouted wheat (sabzeh), apple (sib), hyacinths (sonbol), vinegar (serkeh), garlic (sir), a reddish brown spice eaten with kebab (sumac), gold coins (sekkeh), and a clock (sa'at).
The holy book of Qoran and a book of poetry often by Hafiz, some grains of wheat and dyed eggs also included. Many people buy a little goldfish and fish bowl. It is rumored that fish will remain motionless facing the direction of the North Pole the exact moment that the New Year arrives.
With Norouz come new clothes. Houses and yards are cleaned .Trees are pruned; fields cleared. It is time for renewing relationships as well. People who have had quarrels and refused to speak with each other use this chance to forgive one another and renew their relationships.
There is always lots of food and sweets at Norouz. Friends and families visit one another. Usually a very carefully guarded hierarchy is observed and the oldest members of the community receive guests first. On the eve of Norouz, Northern Azerbaijanis visit the cemetery where their parents are buried. Gifts and food are shared with the needy, poor, and sick.
There are impressive and memorable customs practiced among the people in Azerbaijan such as sending large tray (Khan) of "Samanoo" throwing fur hats to the doors, hanging cloth bags through the holes in the roofs to demand gifts, etc.
... Payvand News - 3/24/06 ... --