Cover photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Cover photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova

Nooruz in Bishkek: the Persian and Turkic New Year celebration

3 minutes to read

Every year on 21 March, all the Persian and Turkic people celebrate their New Year called - Nooruz, which means a new day. Nooruz is celebrated on the first day of spring when the length of the daylight is equal to the night’s darkness. An equinox happens only twice a year. It is believed that exactly on 21 March, nature wakes up from a winter sleep and fills the earth with more sunlight, warmth and hope. In Kyrgyzstan, it is a national holiday and a day-off for all governmental institutions. Since it is a celebration of nature's awakening, on this day people flood to outdoors, parks, gardens, town squares to welcome the spring. On the main square of the capital city Bishkek, there is a festive celebration organized by a town hall. If you happen to be in Bishkek on this day, expect to meet joyful people on the main square, greeting a new year with grand performance, cheerful music and traditional food. 

Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova

The revival of nature 

The holiday has the origins in the Zoroastrianism. Back then, without modern technologies, winter was the hardest period of the year, and many people didn’t survive it. So, Nooruz is a celebration of overcoming the harshness of the winter. Personally, for me starting a new year on 21 March makes much more sense than celebrating it on 31 December. Nooruz indicates the start of a new cycle. It is a period when birds start coming back, trees blossoming and the earth becoming greener. People clean up their houses, pay back their debts and reconcile with others. 

Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova

A community holiday

Nooruz is a celebration of a union between a human and nature. We believe that people are a part of natural cycles of life and death. That’s why Nooruz is always celebrated outdoors in nature and together with your community. It is a day when all the neighbors go out, gather in common areas of villages, courtyards of houses, dorm’s backyards and spend the whole day around a huge bonfire cooking sumolok, a sweet paste made from fresh wheatgrass, prepared in a huge pot called kazan. It is a special dish that is cooked only once in a year for Nooruz. It is cooked all night long. Everyone takes its turn to stir the pot. Children throw small stones in the pot and make a wish. These stones prevent the sumolok from burning and condensation. The cooking is accompanied by playing traditional instruments (like komuz), singing and laughter. 

Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova
Photo © Credits to Elena Bayalinova

Every year, there is a Nooruz holiday program happening on the main square of every city in Kyrgyzstan. In the capital city, Bishkek, the main celebration of Nooruz takes place on the Ala-Too square. The program includes a performance called “the revival of nature”, a concert with traditional songs and dances, cooking of sumolok, traditional swings called selkinchek, and in some places fire-jumping activities. On this day, people of Persian and Turkic backgrounds all around the world wish for a good start of spring field works, a good harvest and general prosperity in the new year. 

Ala-Too Square
Ala-Too Square
Chuy Ave, Bishkek, Kirghizistan

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The author

Gulzat Matisakova

Gulzat Matisakova

Hello. I am Gulzat, from Kyrgyzstan. I studied documentary filmmaking in Europe. In my free time I enjoy watching films and hiking. I am here to guide you through the treasures of Kyrgyzstan.

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