Nauryz. An ancient celebration of the new year, symbolizing happiness, love and friendship for many Kazakhs and other peoples of Central Asia. Literally meaning “new day” in Persian, Nauryz is one of the most beloved Kazakh holidays, which starts on 21st of March, the spring equinox. It is not an accident that the month of March in Kazakh is also called “Nauryz”.
Carrying with it thousands of years of tradition, the holiday was celebrated long before the arrival of Islam in Kazakhstan, and remains largely a secular celebration, except for Zoroastrians. On 30 September Nauryz was included into the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Now it has been adapted into a modern Kazakh life, but how was it celebrated in the old times in the Great Kazakh Steppe?
In order to immerse themselves in the actual life of traditional Kazakh nomads, servicemen of the Regional Command "South" together with the locals erected an ethno-village in Zhambyl Oblast in anticipation of Nauryz.
They put up traditional nomadic homes – yurts – with a wooden carcass and felt covering decorated with Kazakh ornaments. For the youth and kids, a swing called "altybakan" was installed, fixed on six thick legs and capable of carrying dozens of people at once.
In the olden times, Kazakh’s best friend was a horse. Kazakhs were masters of horse riding that helped them win many battles. Present-day mastery of “dzhigitovka” or trick riding is shown here in the video by members of the mountain ranger company of Kazakhstan.
The horse was an essential part of many activities, both in war and in peace. Nauryz celebration is not an exception. Many Kazakh games a played on horseback. One of them is “kyz kuu,” chasing a girl on horseback.
But of course there were games that are common in many places around the globe. Such is “arkan tartu” – tug of war, one of the games that involved most of the men in a village.
During Nauryz it was common to practice rituals. "Tysau kesu" is a tradition by which a child’s first steps are symbolically marked by cutting fetters binding his or her legs. The whole village looked down with a blessing on the child making his or her first tiny steps.
As people got tired of games and entertainment, they gathered for a feast, where they danced, played and sang. Everyone got a taste of a special soup made up of seven ingredients called Nauryz kozhe.
It is cooked specifically for Nauryz and many believe it to have special healing properties. Water, salt, natural yogurt, meat, rice, barley and noodles create a peculiar taste that even the most sophisticated foodies will find unforgettable.
But the most important custom of Nauryz is for people to forgive past offenses and forget resentments. All the bad things should be left behind and the new year should be welcomed with joy and in good spirits.