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Norouz in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan, people cook sumalak, the symbolic Norouz dish. It is its mass character when each participant of this event becomes a part of the general elation that has prevented Norouz from falling into oblivion.

Tehran, 29 March 2006 (CHN) -- For all the nations spring is the time of nature revival and renovation, the period of expectations and hope for peace between people, for bumper harvest in the fields and gardens and good increase in livestock, for love and consent in family. And all these expectations are embodied in spring festival Norouz.

From the times this holiday originated, Norouz was mainly the festival of masses and has been preserved as such up to the present days. During this festival there are no official events such as parades, demonstrations, meetings or marches in Uzbekistan.

Unlike the western New Year traditions, Norouz is celebrated in daytime hours within the family circle. March 21st is the main celebration, but for the next week it is common practice to visit friends and relatives, buy and plant seeding of fruit trees and have cheerful gatherings in the fresh spring air.

Traditionally, it is also a time to "clean up" one's life. People tidy up their homes, wash rugs and draperies, decorate with flowers, and buy new clothes that they will use for visiting. On the day of Norouz, all housekeeping - including the preparation of the meal, careful cleaning of the home and the arrangement of blossoming branches from apricot, peach, almond or pomegranate trees - must be completed before rising of the morning star. Children enjoy the holiday because they often get presents of money, as well as blessings, from their elders.

In Uzbekistan, it is a customary practice for people to gather for hashar (team-work) few days before beginning of the festival. During hasher, they tidy up and decorate their cities and villages because it is natural enough to celebrate the holiday in clean and tidy surroundings. By the time the celebration starts, all cooking of holiday food is to be completed too.

In Samarqand, Bukara, Andican, the ceremonies which start on Norouz continue for almost a whole month. The people visit each other's tents during these ceremonies and congratulate each other. The food served during such visits is rice which is specially made. Shows like wrestling, horse races and rooster fights are organized.

Of the seven food beginning with the sound of SH in the Uzbek language, milk represents cleanliness, dessert represents the joy of living, sugar represents the coolness and rest; candle represents worshipping to fire, and comb represents the beauty of the women. After the introduction of Islam, 7 objects beginning with "SH" were replaced according to the Islamic traditions.

Various and plentiful meals are also made during the Norouz festival which is held in the hope of the coming profitable and bumper-crop year. On the day of the festival, different national dishes are served: pilov (meat dish with rice), shurpa (vegetable soup), boiled mutton or beef, kuk-samsa (patty with spring onions) and sweet nishalda (dessert made of eggs whisked with sugar).

But the culmination of the holiday is sumalak - a ritual meal, which citizens of Uzbekistan can taste only once a year, whereas the guests, very likely, can do it once in their lifetime. Sumalak is made from flour and wheat sprouts, which are the symbols of eternal life.

Today, Uzbeks still serve a traditional meal of "sumalak", which tastes like molasses-flavored cream of wheat and is made from flour and sprouted wheat grains. Sumalak is cooked slowly on wood fire, sometimes with addition of spices. Sprouted grain is the symbol of life, heat, abundance and health.

People cook sumalak, the symbolic Norouz dish. It is its mass character when each participant of this event becomes a part of the general elation that has prevented Norouz from falling into oblivion. Sumalak-making is a long process: it is cooked for 24 hours until it becomes a viscous mass. Special large pots are used, with round small stones covering the bottom of the pot to protect the sweet mass from getting burnt. Cooking of sumalak as an ancient ritual which has its own peculiarities; traditionally only women used to make it. It is notable that sumalak-making process is accompanied by women's singing of special short verses, dancing, joking, telling either true or cock-and-bull stories. The ready-to-serve sumalak becomes a good treat for relatives, guests and neighbors. Local people believe that it is a good omen if you find a small stone in your sumalak dish: it means you will be lucky and healthy till the next Norouz.

Meanwhile, the parks and squares are surrounded by blossomed trees the general merry-making starts. The traditional personages, Bahor-Hanum (Spring), Dehkan-Bobo (Old farmer), Momo-Er (the Earth), accompanied by musicians, drive along the streets in the cars decorated with the flowers, and invite everybody to the central square, where the main celebration takes place.

Following old traditions, Norouz is the day when people forgive each other's resentment and make it up with each other. Many people call on those who are poor, lonely or disabled, take care of them, and give them small gifts. In fact, the celebration of Norouz lasts the whole month.

The activities of the first 13 days of the New Year are considered harbingers of the year to come. For this reason, it is traditional to end quarrels, forgive debts and overlook enmity and insults. It is a time for reconciliation, when forgiveness and cheerfulness are the dominant sentiments. As with the celebration of the Chinese New Year, there are traditions associated with the first visitor to the house during Norouz. To ensure good luck for the coming year, this person should have a "happy foot"; he or she should be kind, gentle, witty, pious and have a good reputation.

Central Asia has its own Norouz traditions. From ancient times, the holiday was celebrated in agricultural oases with festivals, bazaars, horseracing, and dog and cock fights.

There is an interesting precept in "Norouzname", a well-known poetic work by a prominent Iranian philosopher and poet Omar Khayam also famous in Uzbekistan: "He who celebrates and has fun on the day of Norouz will spend his life cheerfully until the next Norouz celebration".

It was only after Uzbekistan became an independent state that Norouz gained huge popularity. It is significant that one of first acts of the new state authorities imparted a status of nationwide state holiday to Norouz.

In independent Uzbekistan, this ancient festival has gained a new sense. People of all nationalities, who populate Republic of Uzbekistan and for whom this land has become native celebrate Norouz with genuine enthusiasm, while the guests of their country participate in the festival with utmost interest.

... Payvand News - 3/30/06 ... --

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