With another St. Patrick’s day having come and gone I thought I would look into some popular holiday’s that are celebrated in other countries. It turns out that the most popular festival celebrated in Afghanistan just so happens to be today! Nowruz means “new day” and it is the Persian New Year. It falls on the exact moment that the earth completes its full rotation. It is a celebration that is filled with parties, crafts, performances, and public rituals. As of 2010 March 21st was recognized as International Nowruz Day by the United Nations at the request of several countries including: Afghanistan, Albania, Iran, India, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. Over 300 million people around the world celebrate Nowruz and it has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.
During this celebration of new beginnings many use this time to deep clean their homes and buy fresh clothing, to visit neighbors and friends to share meals, and to honor the traditions of this holiday. One such tradition is the Haft Sin tables which are often set up in the home and include symbolic items like wheat grass, herbs, dried food, and vinegar which all represent various hopes for the new year. Families can place a goldfish on the table for good luck and a poetry book or the Quran to symbolize education and enlightenment. Several other traditions such as banging pots and pans, jumping over fires (yes you read that right), and receiving a visit from Amoo Nowruz (similar to a Santa clause figure) are all important parts of this yearly celebration.
In addition to all of the exciting activities another important part of this holiday is the food! Some of the most popular dishes Sabzi polo ba mahi - rice tinted vivid green with herbs and served with fried fish, Dolmeh barg - grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice and ground lamb; and Shirin, or shekar polo - a sweet rice pilaf are just a few of the delicious meals served along with the sweets, pastries, and nuts that are eaten in large quantities during Nowruz. Families often come together to have picnics and celebrate this special time of the year together.