Novruz is observed throughout Central Asia to mark the onset of spring and the Persian New Year. Novruz, which means “new day” in Persian, is celebrated by millions across Central Asia, from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan.

On this occasion, people congregate to enjoy food, music, and dancing while also praying for each other health, happiness, and wealth in the upcoming year.

Girls are celebrating Novruz
Girls are celebrating Novruz

It is a time when families, friends, and communities gather to celebrate life’s revival and reaffirm their cultural identity and legacy.

Novruz is entrenched in centuries of history and represents the cultural richness of Central Asia. The celebrations differ in each region, but the underlying themes remain consistent: hope, joy, and rejuvenation.

Girls are dancing to celebrate Novruz
Girls are dancing to celebrate Novruz

Its celebration unites individuals from all walks of life and fosters cross-cultural dialogue, a sense of belonging, and goodwill.

People decorate their homes for weeks before Novruz and prepare traditional meals and sweets, including baklava, shekerbura, sumalaka, and samani. These delicacies are then shared with family, friends, and neighbors.

It is a vibrant and distinct festival commemorating spring’s arrival and nature’s rejuvenation. During the Novruz, people light bonfires, jump over them, and sing songs honoring the victory of light over darkness.

Haft Seen Table of Novruz
Haft Seen Table of Novruz

Families assemble around the haft seen table for the feast. The haft-seen table is a spread that comprises seven things that begin with the Persian letter “seen.” Seen symbolizes the seven creations. It is the most recognizable sign of Novruz.

Among the seven are:

  1. Sabzeh (wheat or lentil sprouts) – represents rebirth and growth.
  2. Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ) – represents wealth and fertility.
  3. Senjed (sweet, dried fruit from the lotus tree) – expressing love.
  4. Serkeh (vinegar) – represents age and patience.
  5. Seeb (apples) – represents beauty and health.
  6. Somagh (ground sumac) – represents the sunrise and light.
  7. Seer (garlic) – represents medicine and health.

Novruz rituals in Central Asia are incomplete without traditional dances. People congregate in public squares and parks to enjoy cultural acts highlighting the region’s customs.

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The “sama,” “yally,” and “chabbi” are among the traditional songs and dances that are frequently performed in these events.

The dances are commonly performed by groups of men and women dressed in traditional attire. Traditional musical instruments like the “dombra” and “tar” accompany the dances.

Men commemorate Novruz Day, a springtime and new year's festival.
Men commemorate Novruz Day, a springtime and new year’s festival.

The dances serve as both entertainment and a means of preserving and promoting the local culture. They are a crucial component of the identity of Central Asian people. They are passed down from generation to generation.

In recent years, efforts have been undertaken to promote Novruz as a symbol of Central Asian cultural heritage. It has been designated as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.

Decorative Eggs for the occasion
Decorative Eggs for the occasion

Novruz has also developed into a significant component of the region’s tourism industry. It draws tourists from all over the world who are eager to experience the distinctive culture and traditions of Central Asia. 

Novruz is a time of joy and goodwill when people set aside their differences to enjoy their shared heritage. It is a celebration that transcends borders, faiths, and languages and reminds us of the richness and complexity of Central Asian culture.

Girls are carrying wheat or lentil sprouts plates
Girls are carrying wheat or lentil sprouts plates

In addition to the festival, the Novruz holiday offers meditation and restoration opportunities. It is a moment to appreciate nature’s beauty and express gratitude for its generosity.

The occasion has become an essential component of the region’s cultural heritage. Novruz stands as a testament to these communities’ resilience.

Honoring shared rituals and customs during Novruz also fosters cohesion and solidarity. This day should be recognized and celebrated in Central Asia and worldwide.