Azerbaijan: Novruz

Prohibited but celebrated discreetly during its years as a Soviet republic, Novruz is now one of the most anticipated holidays to be openly marked in Azerbaijan. Also observed in Afghanistan and Iran as well as by the Kurds in Turkey on the day of the vernal equinox, while the festival might be marked slightly differently in each, it remains distinct, as Universal Thoughts explains.

Novruz is a holiday celebrating the arrival of spring. It is believed to be Zoroastrian holiday […].

[…] the fact that Novruz transcends nationalities, cultures and religions is most remarkable. […] The fact that Shia Islam had adopted, nurtured and saved this great day, with all its traditions intact is most amazing. While Christianity had changed pagan holidays and made them their own, […] Islam could not and would not do that.

In Azerbaijan, a country with a Shi‘ite Muslim majority population, nine days holiday were declared instead of the normal five. Zehra's Daily yesterday explained the origins and signicance of Novruz.

[…] An origin of holiday Novruz also often connect with ancient religion of Azerbaijanians Zoroastrianism. Quite definitely, that Novruz it was marked and during pre-Islamic times and later. […] Holiday Novruz is connected with spring, the beginning of agricultural works, updating of the nature and approach of warm days. The importance of this period of year for a life of people since the most ancient times has generated set of customs and the ceremonies connected with magic actions, a cult of the nature and fertility, beliefs in the dying and reviving nature. […]

I realy like this holiday cause I feel that spring is coming :). Wish to all happy Novruz :)


Shekerbura traditional Novruz sweet pastry, Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook

However, preparations start long before yesterday when Novruz officially began as Sheki, Azerbaijan detailed last year.

Starting four weeks in advance of Novruz each Wednesday (Çərşənbə) we celebrate Wednesday of Wind, Wednesday of Water, Wednesday of Fire and Wednesday of Earth. Evening of 20th of March and 21st of March are actual Novruz celebration days. […]

We have many traditions connected with Novruz such as jumping over fire (to drop past year troubles into the fire), prepare special Novruz deserts (to energize the batteries of the body that get exhausted during cold winter) and visiting the families and relatives.

As with New Year, it is the eve of such days which are perhaps most important, and Sheki, Azerbaijan detailed most of the preceding special days in separate posts for this year's observance of Novruz. Towards the end of February, the blog introduced its readers to Water Tuesday.

[…] today…is first Tuesday when we “acknowledge” approach of Novruz in Azerbaijan and this Tuesday is “water” Tuesday as we call it here. […] today…is first Tuesday when we “acknowledge” approach of Novruz in Azerbaijan and this Tuesday is “water” Tuesday as we call it here.

The following week in March saw Fire Tuesday observed.

Fire…those who know the history of Zoroastrianism and know a bit about Azerbaijan might have heard that there is a zoroastrian pilgrimage in suburbs of Baku and that fire is somewhat sacred in this “odlar yurdu” i.e. land of fire i.e. Azerbaijan… […]

Fire is another sign of nature that is celebrated during Novruz. Fire means warmth and comfort…I hope there is more warmth and comfort in our homes and hearts than anything else…

The blog missed Wind Tuesday, but last week wrote about that day as well as the final Earth Tuesday before the holiday is actually observed.

Unfortunately last Tuesday I wasn’t able to write about wind Tuesday…I was thinking to write that they say that Baku means city of winds and this wind makes sometimes hot and humid summers a bit bearable but also makes winters much colder than thermometers show… […]

This Tuesday is evening of earth sign of nature…I guess the most important sign. I say the most important cause it was the first and main reason why people started to fight with each other…Earth said: “I will feed you and amaze you, all you need is to take care of me, love me and enjoy…but people thought that more they have of it better and started wars to occupy as much of it as possible in the meantime forgetting what they needed the earth for in the first place…”


This Tuesday evening is considered as the most festive…with candles on the table, dishes cooked and sweets prepared people are celebrating the awakening of earth…spring is coming and rejuvenating nature will bring hopes and love or hopes for love to everyone…

Gypsy Soul, a Peace Corps Volunteer blog, particularly enjoys the holiday.

[…] there is some exciting stuff happening in Azerbaijan right now. One thing is that it is Novruz! […] Novruz is, from what I understand, the biggest holiday in Azerbaijan. […] Last Tuesday kids went around to different houses and throw their hats in the house. Why might you ask? Because each house then fills the hats with pastries they made, candy, and fruit. Tons of fun! However my absolute favorite thing is the fire jumping! Yes, you heard right. Each Tuesday everyone builds a bonfire in their yard and everyone jumps it 3 times. […] Another neat thing about Norvuz is that everything is shut down for 9 days of holiday – i.e. no work. That is always fun, so starting tomorrow my days will be filled with guesting!


Photo: Novruz Sumani © ♥ Lala ♥, used by permission

Learning to Walk in Stilettos also noticed some of the same traditions, and especially those associated with food.

One tradition that I’m anxious to witness is the holiday table (because we all know I love food). The table is set with a white cloth to represent purity and the table must have seven items beginning with the letter “s”…

Sumaq (sumac) – for the color of the sun at sunrise

Sumani (wheat sprouts) – sweetness, fertility, having many children

Sikke (coins) – good luck

Su (water) – purity, rebirth and health

Sabzi (vegetable) – purity and good fortune

Sud (milk) – health and natural beauty

Sarikok (yellow ginger) – sweetness in life

Another tradition which I find interesting is ”papag atdi”, meaning hat throwing…this is similar to the American tradition of “trick or treat”. Children visit their neighbors and leavetheir caps or a basket on the door step. The children, knock then hide to see if they will be receive candy, nuts or treats. We didn’t receive any papag atdiers last night and from my understanding this tradition is also supposed to occur on Wind Tuesday….bummer. That would have been kind of fun although I honestly don’t know what I would have given out as treats…

There are many other traditions celebrated with Novruz including not locking doors. On the first day of the NewYear houses are lit all night long because switching off lights is considered bad luck. Novruz is also a time for renewing friendships.

The adventures from afar… says Novruz is the time to be in Azerbaijan.

Novruz has started, and will continue until the end of next week. Novruz is a celebration of spring as well. It is a time of renewal and symbolizes rebirth, awakening, cleanliness and newness. Semeni, a grass or sprouted wheat, is grown and placed as centerpieces around homes, restaurants, etc. I have come to really enjoy seeing the semeni around town because it makes me feel as though spring is truly here! Other things are done as well… washing your face in cold water on Tuesday (every Tuesday until the end of the celebration), jumping fires, treats are made and given (Pakhlava (baklava) and Shekerbura), and decorating/coloring eggs […].

Novruz is still going on… so I will update you on the events that I witness. Tomorrow I am supposed to go downtown to see some fire jumping and join in the Spring Equinox festivities.

Stitch Itch, another expat blog, was presented with some of those sweet pastries although could only recognize the Baklava. Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook not only identifies the second, Shekerbura, but also provides a handy illustrated step-by-step Novruz recipe.

If Samani is a green symbol of Novruz, two desserts, Pakhlava (baklava) and Shekerbura, are the spring holiday’s sweet symbols. No Novruz table is complete without these delicious nut filled delights.


Shekerbura is a sweet pastry filled with ground nuts and sugar. In Azerbaijan, making shekerbura usually involves a team-work. Relatives and neighbors get together at somebody’s house and all contribute to the making of this and other Novruz treats. Baked shekerbura is put on the table on a khoncha, a special holiday tray, filled with Novruz desserts, nuts, dried fruits and colored eggs.

Global Voices Online wishes those readers who celebrate Novruz happy holidays and a bountiful spring.


  • […] Onnik Krikorian he posts many things about Azerbaijan and that is one of the coutries in my region (a link to the post). He is a journalist and photojournalist of Armenian and English descent who has been resident in […]

  • […] Azeri in Suburbs recounts celebrating Novruz in London with her friends from Azerbaijan. The blog says that for a moment she felt as if she was […]

  • Araksya

    Thanks to both journalists for such interesting issues.I think everybody will see the same traditions that we two neiboughring countries have:growing sprouted wheat, jumping over the fire,colouring eggs,setting the holiday table,etc.I’ve also mentioned the similarity betweenTrndez and Novruz:the arrival of spring and asking for the sun warmth with the help of fire.I loved the Earth’s words:”I’ll feed you and amaze you,all you need is to take care of me,love me and enjoy,but…”These words must be credo for all people.Let’s be friends,I hate war and I’m tired of my mother’s tears when she speaks on the phone with her friends.collegues and pupils from Baku-tears of nostalgue.Let the coming spring 2009 bring us joy and happiness.Araksya Tsaturova

  • Great article here.Now I know what is Novruz.I think it’s a very interesting holiday and very important for Azerbaijan.I saw a video of Novruz 2009 in YouTube––this a URL of the video.Nice dance I think.It’s very interesting and also very important to know traditions of differant countries.

  • Sona Dilanian

    Dear Onnik,
    I read your article with a great interest! Your work helps us to know more about each other and to strengthen our relationships whith our Azerbaijani friends! Thanks!

  • Lala

    I am Azerbaijanian.And I am thanking you for your good article Novruz is great holiday in Arbaijan which you can join to this holiday in spring.Next years we will celebrate Novruz like carnaval in our country and other countries can participate in it.

  • […] was the case last year, Sheki, Azerbaijan introduces its readers to the start of events leading to the holiday of Novruz […]

  • […] I’ve tried to do with coverage of citizen media on Global Voices since March 2009 and a post on Novruz, an annual celebration firmly rooted in Zoroastrianism. The comments section was full of some […]

  • […] on 21 March with the festivities starting weeks before as previous posts on Global Voices here and here have detailed. This year was no different and Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) in the former […]

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