Kazakhstan: Celebrating Nauryz

Nauryz, a Central Asian non-religious celebration of the spring equinox, symbolizes a renewal of the nature. Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, the holiday’s name derives from the Persian, where – just like in Tajik language – Novruz is translated as a “new day”. In Soviet times Nauryz was declared ideologically inconsistent and was curtailed. It came back only with the republic’s independence. For nearly a decade it has been hardly understandable for the people – economic crisis and lack of tradition of the holiday’s celebration made all festivities come down to public open-air fete with shashlyks [kebabs] and yurts [felt tents]. Actually, all other “new holidays” – Independence, Republic and Constitution days – were celebrated in pretty much the same way. But as the wealth of the nation began to swell up after the oil prices went up in early 2000s, the celebrations’ scale and creativity grew prominently. Obvoiously, you think more of the way to salute the holiday when you have money to make a decent festivity.

Last week I asked the bloggers to speak out their thoughts about and attitude towards Nauryz, being both a traditional and an instilled-by-the-state new holiday. ehot opines that Nauryz is historically much more substantial and sensible holiday than New Year, because it has material substrate, which is equinox, while New Year is rooted in administrative system of the Roman empire. bireherz objects: “Nauryz is not accepted; a pagan holiday, just a day-off for me” [ru].

pacifisttt is also skeptical: “I never celebrated it and I don’t put in much sense in it. When I was in school, faculty forced us to do something for Nauryz. Obligations were no fun at all”. whitewomen does not apprehend the holiday either, although she admits that all other holidays don’t provoke too much of her excitement too. “I know that Nauryz marks out beginning of real spring, and I always wait for these days. Not for the holiday, but for the warm weather” [ru].

However, the survey revealed that vast majority of bloggers like Nauryz. razglaz says it brings him joy, because “it is associated with the rebirth and renewal”, and considers that it closely relates to physiology – a hormones’ spring festival. ia_robot likes the idea of the holiday and also refers to its wonderful season: “holidays can’t be joyless – organism wakes up…” slavoyara from Pavlodar, traditionally a “less Kazakh” region on the border with Russia, adores Nauryz also: “I literally feel that it’s a frontier; after Nauryz spring rushes in” [ru].

dolphin_kz and pulemetchizza believe it is the first spring holiday, omitting March 8th, International Women’s Day which is widely celebrated in CIS states by the Soviet tradition. “This a really spring holiday, positively different from March 8 – you don’t have to make presents to women or whoever else – just gladly congratulate anybody and everybody with Nauryz. Nice!”, writes pulemetchizza [ru].

Many people use this holiday to make the first outing to the countryside or to the mountains for a picnic. cray_t3d wonders how this holiday can be of no joy: “Spring mood, turning point from winter to the warm season, hot pilaff in the cauldron, trout in the river or delicious grill in the mountains – what can be better than that after dull winter!?” katena7 and lulu_razzi also celebrate the holiday with the families by going out of town and stipulate – the holiday is settled down in the society already [ru].

lamanzh adds: “I love this holiday, even though it was introduced officially. It has become our family holiday – and since our family is multi-ethnic, we equally celebrate both Nauryz and Easter!” altynai_star has warm recollections about the holiday, as she belongs to the generation who had Nauryz since childhood: “Everything was coming back to life, and festivities with horses, yurts, delicatessen etc. Now I wait it to meet my whole huge family… Interesting – Nauryz is a holiday that came back”, she concludes [ru].

zhuldyz from Aktobe, Western Kazakhstan, doubts that Nauryz has really settled down in Kazakhstan – perhaps, people have just got used to it, she supposes. whlevart is even more downcast because of the mania for showcasing that local authorities seem to have: “I think the mess gets worse – they even installed fur tree for Nauryz! In previous years, it was possible to enter any yurt on the main square and try delicacies and stuff. This year’s celebration was a complete tinsel show” [ru].

Perhaps, the main reason why multi-ethnic population of Kazakhstan tends to be more positive about Nauryz is the spring season indeed, but also a fact that the holiday is fully non-political. Neither of other new holidays can boast such love of the people so far.

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