Nauryz

Nauryz © Nazym Malibayeva

Nauryz is the first day of the new year according to the solar calendar in many Turkic cultures and symbolizes the renewal of nature associated with the cult of fertility. Nauryz unites people around traditional values. Before the holiday, it is necessary to pay off debts, forgive each other’s offenses, tidy up the house, prepare refreshments, clean the springs, and plant trees. All people are in a hurry to congratulate relatives, friends, colleagues, and neighbors; they smile and say warm words when meeting people by chance as well as invite them over and sit down at a dastarkhan, which has a round shape like a table many more people can fit around than from behind a rectangular one. This shows the original hospitality and kindliness of Kazakhs.

Legends Associated with the Name of Nauryz Holiday

According to one legend, Nauryz is the name of the ancestor of Kazakhs, he did not have children. Before his death, Nauryz turned to Abdraim (the prophet) with words of regret that he had no one to leave his name. To preserve the name of the old man, Abdraim gave the name to Nauryz-kozhe. Nauryz is the birthday and death of this old man. On this day they prepare a sacrificial meal, read prayers from the Koran in memory of their ancestors. According to another version, Nauryz is the name of a beggar. Before his death, he turned to the old people with the words that he had no one to leave his name. Old people promised to cook Nauryz-kozhe annually and read prayers from the Koran in memory of him.

Holiday Symbols

The white color on the dastarkhan is a symbol of contentment, welfare, and prosperity. Therefore, its mandatory attributes are: koumiss, kurt, cottage cheese—livestock products.

The most indispensable thing in Nauryz is the presence of a traditional dish—nauryz-kozhe on each holiday table. Kazakhs believe that in Nauryz you need to eat this dish to e fulfilled and then the year will pass in abundance. Nauryz-kozhe is a nourishing and rich soup prepared from seven ingredients: meat, water, flour, butter, millet (can be replaced with rice or corn), salt, and milk. Each component of the dish symbolizes one of the seven vital principles: growth, luck, happiness, wealth, health, wisdom, and the patronage of heaven. Nauryz is generally full of symbols. At the celebration of Nauryz the presence of the number seven was obligatory for Kazakhs, which represent seven days of the week, units of time of universal eternity: seven cups were placed before the elders with a nauryz-kozhe drink made from seven varieties of seven types of cereals.

Amusements

The celebration of Nauryz has always been accompanied by mass games, traditional horse racing and amusements. Improvised contests of wit poets (akyns) take place in Nauryz, the holiday is not without national competitions among which the kazaksha kures national wrestling, the game of logic called toguz kumalak and of course kyz-ku and baiga horse games. Actors play theatrical performances right on the streets. Another ancient tradition of Nauryz celebrating revered to this day is called altybakan when girls and boys come together to chat and ride on a swing.

All people, regardless of gender, age, and communal affiliation are released from everyday duties and take part in fun and games on equal terms. The day ends with a performance where two akyns in poetic form competed in songs. Their competitions stopped when the sun goes down over the horizon, when good conquers evil. Then they make a fire, and people with torches light them up from go around all the neighborhoods of the village, singing and dancing, thereby completing the festival of spring renewal and the equinox.

Nauryz was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.