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NEVRUZ

The word Nevruz is of Persian origin and is a combination of the words “ nev” (new) and “ruz” (day), meaning new day. According to the old Persian calendar, it is the first day of the year and regarded as the start of spring, when the sun enters the house of Aries.

The sun gives more light and heat to the southern hemisphere until March 21, after which this applies to the northern hemisphere instead. That is why March 21 is a day to celebrate for people living in the northern hemisphere as the symbol of awakening and creation.

According to Persian mythology, God created the world, man and the sun on this day. Kiyumers, the legendary Persian ruler, declared this day to be a festival when he ascends the throne. Jemshid, the symbol of magnificence in Persia , also ascended the throne on this day. In addition, Jem, the seventh grandson of the Prophet Adam, came to Azerbaijan on March 21 and declared it to be a day of celebration.

Nevruz, which goes by various names such as Nevruz-i Sultan, Sultan Nevruz, Navrız and Mart dokuzu in Anatolia, is celebrated differently in different regions. It is also a ceremony for abundance in regions where people generally work in agriculture. It also has a faith-related significance in Alawite-Bektashi communities.

In Alawite-Bektashi communities, Nevruz is the birthday of Ali, and also the day when Ali and Fatma married. In addition, it is the day the Prophet Mohammad designated Ali as his caliph after his return from the Farewell Hadj. On the morning of this day, people drink milk after the guide has read prayers. They read poems called Nevruziye, nefes (a poem read by dervishes) and Mevlit (a religious poem and prayer chanted either in memory of a dead person or to mark a special religious occasion) in memory of Ali. They visit graves with pastries that have been prepared earlier and eat these there.

Ottoman sultans paid special attention to Nevruz Day. Poems in the form of the “gazel” and “kasida”, called “Nevruziye”, were presented to them on that day. In these kasidas, the main theme was trees, which put forth leaves, opening flowers, the warming of the weather and similar. It was then related for Adam was created on Nevruz Day, Noah’s Ark reached land and Ali was born and became a caliph. It was said that all creatures prostrated themselves to God on Nevruz night, and that wishes came true. Again on Nevruz Day, the chief astrologer used to present the new calendar to the sultan and receive alms. This tip was called “nevruziye baksheesh”. Pastes called nevruziye, prepared with various spices by the chief physicians of the palace, were offered to the family of the sultan and other dignitaries. The pastes prepared for this day were presented in bowls with porcelain lids, and a note stating at which the hours of the day they should be consumed was also attached.

The origin of the Nevruziye paste has been traced back to the Persians by some researchers. In the time of Persians, physicians and pharmacists would gather together to prepare this special mixture. It was believed that those who ate it would be protected against all illnesses throughout the whole year. In time, this custom changed and Nevruziye became the name of a special sweet eaten on Nevruz days. Recently, as an extension of this custom, “mesir” pastes are distributed to people in Manisa on March 21.

Not only Nevruz Day, but also Nevruz Night has a heavenly significance for the people of Eastern Anatolia. It is believed that all creatures and things prostrate themselves before God on this night. That day, every individual’s fortune and future for the next year is set out. People prepare for the new year by wearing new and beautiful clothes. Meals are cooked in the home, and mutual visits take place.

Another custom seen in some regions of Anatolia in March is “Black Wednesday.” Various ceremonies are performed at this time, and meals prepared and eaten communally on this day, the first Wednesday in March. The young make wishes and listen at their neighbors’ doors.

Another of the traditions related to Nevruz is “March thread”. Pieces of cloth are tied to trees to protect them from the sun as the weather begins to warm up as of March 21.

The custom called “Mart bozumu” (breaking March) in Giresun is another of the significant traditions related to Nevruz. At this time, water from a stream is fetched and sprinkled through the local houses. A guest who brings good luck is expected to visit and say “I am breaking your March”.

In the Central Anatolian region, Nevruz is called “Mart dokuzu” (nine of March). On March 21, people get up early, pay visits to graves and make wishes. The person who intends to make a wish collects forty stones from the graves and puts them into a sack. He then hangs the sack on the wall of his home, and meanwhile, makes a wish. One year later, he looks inside the sack. If the number of stones has risen to 41, he believes that his wish will come true. On the next nine of March, the stones are put back where they were taken from.

On Nevruz Day, people lay their tables with an assortment of foodstuffs, play games, hold festivities, eat painted eggs and prepare large fires.

Nevruz, which every society celebrates in forms peculiar to itself, still exists with traditional celebrations in Azerbaijan , Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Turkmenistan , Uzbekistan , Tatarstan, the Uygur region, Anatolia and the Balkans

  Nevruz Celebrations in Turkey and in Central Asia

The day accepted as the New Year’s Day by the Turks living in Central Asia, Anatolian Turks and Iranians is called Nevruz. It is a combination of the Persian words Nev (New) and Ruz (Day). It corresponds to March 22nd according to the Western calendar and March 9th according to the Moslem one, when the day and the night are of equal length and ıs known by such names as "Nevruz-i Sultani,” "Sultan Nevruz," "Sultan Navriz" and "Mart Dokuzu" (Ninth of March).

Although it is has been claimed that Nevruz was a Persian conception, it also appears in the Twelve Animal Turkish Calendars, and had been known to the Turks and celebrated by them for a very long time.

The principle view of Nevruz is that it is a celebration of independence. In other words that it marks the day of departure from Ergenekon. Hence, Nevruz has been accepted as the beginning of the new year by Turks and has still been celebrating with festivals.

Among the Turkish communites of Central Asia, the Azeris, Kazakhs, Khirghiz, Türkmens, Uzbeks and Uyghur Turks, the Anatolian Turks and the Balkan Turks have kept the Nevruz traditon alive up to the present day.

Kazakhstan

The Kazakhs recite Mevlid prayers during the Nevruz ceremonies. Houses are spring cleaned and people wear their best clothes. During the Nevruz celebrations, people throw clay cups against walls or the furniture to break them and jump over the fire. It is known that jumping over the fire is a symbol of leaving behind the bad luck and sickness of the previous year and making a healthy start in the new one. The Kazakhs prepare a special meal during Nevruz called "Nevruz – köcö." They also prepare another meal called Nevruz soup or soft rice, "lapa," and give these to their neighbours on that day.

Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz call the first day of the new year Nooroz, and prepare and eat a special meal called "Nooruz köcö" on that day. This is a moist syrup composed of corn or pounded wheat. "Auz köcö," which is also known as "kavut," is another special meal prepared for the day. The Kyrgyz years starts with the Nevruz festival held on the equinox, in other words the new year celebrations on March 21st.

Uzbekistan

In the Samarkand, Bukhara and Andican regions, Nevruz celebrations start on the day of Nevruz and continue for a full week. The people call these Nevruz festivals "Seyil Festivities," and seyil sites are filled with rides, musicians, dancers and hawkers. On the first day of the Nevruz celebrations, people move from tent to tent and extend their best wishes to each other. The food served at this festival time is a special kind of rice called "as." Tea and various fruits are also served in addition to the rice. Beside these offerings, games and sports such as "köpkari," wrestling, horse races and cockfights are organized, and plays about the Nevruz celebrations are staged.

Turkmenistan

Turkomans call the first day of the new year Novruz. Five or six days before Novroz, Turkoman families start cleaning their houses. Food and dishes such as Turkoman pastry, Turkoman petir, külce, fatty börek, sekseke, koko, bovursak and Turkoman rice are prepared. It is believed that preparing many different kinds of food will bring good luck for the following year. Semeni is the special food made during Nevroz. Many families come together and prepare the food in a big cauldron by adding flour and sugar to wheat. Semeni is cooked the day before it is to be eaten, and is readied for the morning of March 21st.

Azarbaijan

In Azarbaijan, Nevruz continues for three days. Splendid celebrations take place each year during 21-23rd March. The second most important day after Nevruz is "ahir çersenbe" (the last Wednesday). It is also called "ilin ahir tek tek." All four Wednesdays of the festival month are also important. This is called "üskü." Men visit the cemeteries on the Tuesday before "ahi çersenbe" and recite the Fatiha sura and then rerturn. Women prepare many dishes, such as halva (a dessert prepared with sugar, flour or semolina) and rice and then go to the cemetery themselves. The Koran is recited, and after prayers they give the food they have prepared to the poor and leave the cemetery after 1-2 hours. This marks the end of the Nevruz celebrations.

In Azarbaijan, the night between Tuesday and Wednesday is called "ahir-çersenbe." The first thing people have to do on "ahir cersenbe" is to clean their houses and all the belongings in it. Besides the custom of burning harmal which is called "pülenberi," a special nocturnal celebration called "yeddi-levin" is organized, during which at least seven kinds of nuts have to be served. Another custom, "gapi pusma," involves young people making a wish and listening at their neighbours door. The first word they hear is regarded as prophetic of the way the coming year will pass.

Another custom on "ahir çersenbe" is the game of "throwing rings in the water." A washbowl filled with water is placed in the center of a room, and girls gather around the bowl and throw their rings in it. One of the girls take out the rings one by one from the covered bowl and recites verses for each ring. The message contained in quatrain applies to the girl whose ring has been taken out.

Waterfront Customs: The next day, before the sun rises, people go down to sources of fresh water and wash their hands and faces and. Girls tie their thumbs together with a cord and jump into the water. They cut the cord and throw it into the water. This is believed to bring them good luck for the following year.

Those coming to the waterside pick seven small stones from the spring and place them at the bottom of the water bowl. These stones remain there until the next "ahir çersenbe." On the way home, three bramble branches are picked and brought to peoples’ houses. These branches also remain where they are hung until the next "ahir çersenbe."

The day before Nevruz is called "baca-baca." Hard boiled eggs painted in different colours are given to children who visit houses one by one. On this day, children walk around in groups and chant folk sayings or songs such as;

    Nevruz, Nevruz to spring
    Roses roses for love
    Let many roses be in our garden
    Let there be many roses and nightingales

The children play games in green areas with their eggs or other toys.

On the night of the "baca-baca" (chimney-chimney) day, there is a custom which involves "throwing shawls from the chimneys." According to this custom, in the afternoon braziers are again lit and people jump over the fire. When night comes children drop cloth bags tied to long ropes down the chimneys of their relatives. The occupant of the house ties a gift which he considers to be appropriate for the person who has thrown the bag down onto the shawl.

On the morning of the "yedd-levin" night, a "küflen" (swing) is hung on a tree by a thick rope. Young girls and boys take turns to swing on it. The child on the swing reads out quatrains while the others answer him or her. This game is given names such as "küfdibi“ or „küfyeli".

On the festival day, men and women gather seperately and wish each other the best for the celebrations. The houses of those who have died during the previous year are visited, but mourning on this day is considered a sin. People visit the houses of the poor and give them food such as sugar, rice, eggs etc. Visiting friends or the sick is believed to have a special importance.

Nevruz is celebrated under many different names; Nevruz by the Karapapaks, Nevrez or Gündönümü by the Crimean Turks, Mevris by the Turks of Western Thrace and Sultan-i Navriz by Turks in Macadenonia and Kosovo.

Turkey

Nevruz, which is known by different names in Anatolia, such as "Sultan-i Nevruz", "Nevruz Sultan", "Mart Dokuzu" (ninth of March) and "Mart Bozumu" (harvest time in March) is still a living and vibrant tradition in Turkish society.

Among the Tahtaci (wood worker) Turkomans,who take their name from their work with wood, the Nevruz festival is held on the 9th of March, old style, and is called Sultan Nevruz. It is celebrated on 22-23rd March, when the Tahtaci Turkomans climb up to the high plateaus. Nevruz is regarded by the Tahtaci Turkomans as a day when feasting takes place in memory of the dead. Here, we can see the signs of a part of the old Turkish belief system, the cult of the ancestor.

March 22nd, the day before Nevruz, is the time for welcoming Nevruz in, and is devoted to Nevruz preparations, such as cleaning houses or preparing food. Pastry with spinach, eggs painted with onion skins, thin pastry breads, burma sweets, candies, roasted chick peas and Turkish delight are among the dishes and food served on Nevruz day. Meanwhile, relatives and neighbours start visiting each other.

On March 23rd, people wake up early. They go to the cemeteries wearing new clothes and with the food they have prepared beforehand. At the graveyard, people chat while drinking coffee. Everybody has to visit the graves close by and drink coffee or tea there. Later, people come together to eat. During the meal, people play mnusical instruments and sing folk songs, swings are suspended from the trees and children fly kites which are called "bayrak" (flag).

In the afternoon, women carry out another custom called "hak ulestir" (sharing equally) by putting appetizers onto a large plate. These appetizers are offered to people walking in front of the house, and in return the recipients chant "I hope it helps the souls of the dead." After the meal, members of the family one by one kiss the tombstones and leave the cemetery .

In the evening, neighbours and relatives continue eating, drinking and chatting until morning. During this holiday everybody is cheerful. Other peoples’ transgressions are forgiven. Participation in the celebrations is mandatory, and those who do not take part are ostracised by the village residents.

Among the Yoruks (a nomadic shepherd people in Anatolia), Nevruz means the end of winter and beginning of spring. It is celebrated on March 22nd in villages and high plateaus, although if this does not fall on a Sunday, it is celebrated in the cities on the first Sunday following Nevruz. On the morning of March 22nd, villagers begin to move to plateaus. Those who arrived earlier and settled into buildings called "davar evi" (cattle houses) welcome their relatives and neighbours from the villages. When the group already on the plateau and the arriving vilagers meet, they salute each other by firing a single pistol shot and say, "Happy Nevruz, and may your seed be plentiful and good for you." The arriving guests are settled in tents and served refreshments. The meat of animals which hace recently been sacrifices by their owners is eaten collectively. Among the Yoruks of Sunnite, people join in communal prayers, and together they give thanks to God. Entertainment is organized by the young people, who sing folk songs and play games, and this continues until late at night.

According to Alawite and Bektashi belief, Nevruz signifies a number of things:

1- The birthday of the Prophet Ali,

2- The wedding day of the Prophet Ali and Fatma,

3- The end of winter and the arrival of spring, and the start of leaving winter settlements and migrating to the plateaus.

On the morning of Nevruz, after prayers lead by the head of the dervish order, people drink milk. Poems called Nevruziye and the Mevlid (birth story) of the Prophet Ali are read. The day is celebrated with candies, sherbet (non-alcoholic drinks made from sugar and spices or sugar and fruit juice) and other refreshments.

Nevruz is called "Sultan Navriz" in Gaziantep and the surrounding area. According to folk belief, Sultan Navriz is a pretty girl who moves from West to East by making sounds with her ankle bracelet and doing embroidery on the night of March 22nd and 23rd. According to another belief, Sultan Navriz is a holy person who can change into the shape of a bird and fly by making sounds with her ankle bracelet. It is believed that all the wishes of those who are awake as Sultan Nevruz passes overhead will come true.

All the cups in peoples’ houses are filled with water, and people stay awake all night. A basin full of water is also left in the courtyard to reflect the moon, and people worship all night long. According to local belief, if someone’s wish has been granted then the water in the basin will turn into gold. The next morning, everybody goes to recreation and picnic areas, where they play various games and eat raw meat balls, rice, egg and piyaz (a savory food prepared with boiled beans).

In Diyarbakir, people go on picnics and to recreation areas on Nevruz day to celebrate.

Nevruz night is considered sacred by the people of eastern Anatolia. It is believed that all living and non-living things worship God on that night. On that day, the year-long fate and food of each person is determined. Everybody puts nice clothes on and gets prepared for the new year, food is prepared in the houses, visits are made and people help the poor. On the night before March 17th, the head of the household collects as many small stones as there are family members and places them on the outside edge of the chimmney of the house. It is decided which stone shall represent which individual. When the stones are checked on the morning of the festival, the presence of a ladybird under any of them means good fortune for the person concerned. In a related manner, it is believed that the whole family will share the good fortune of that individual.

Another tradition seen in some regions of Anatolia in March is the tradition of "Black Wednesday," the first Wednesday in March. At this time, different ceremonies take place and various dishes are prepared and eaten communally. On the same night, young people make a wish and try to listen their neighbours’ houses from outside the front door. Working the milk churn in complete silence is another widely seen tradition. In Kars and the surrounding area at this time, traditional practices like listening at doors and "baca-baca" (chimney-chimney) take place. Household members give fruits to anyone who throws a shawl down the chimney.

Around Tunceli on that day, men smear soot on their foreheads and go to the water springs. There they clean those marks off, pray and make wishes. Other practices aimed at warding off trouble and difficulty are also to be witnessed.

In the practice called scratching chimneys, or placing stones in line with the "Black Wednesday" tradition, people place small stones around the chimney, each stone representing one member of the family. The bottoms of the stones are checked early in the morning. It is believed that if an insect is found under any of the stones, this will bring good fortune to the whole household.

In another game called "pamuk igne" (cotton needle), two girls from the village perform their ritual ablution and go to a frozen water place with a pot in their hands. They break the ice and immerse the pot in the water, recite the Ihlas sura from the Kuran seven times and remove the pot.

In another practice, young girls or boys eat a salty pastry called "tuzlu gilik" on Wednesday night and discuss whom they will marry.

Nevruz is known as "Mart Dokuzu" (Ninth of March) in Central Anatolia in particularly. Similar to other regions, people get up very early in the morning of March 22nd, cemeteries are visited and wishes made. Any woman who wants to make a wish picks one stone from each grave until a total of 40 have been collected. She makes her wish, puts the stones in a bag and hangs it up at home. The bag will stay hanging on the wall for a year. It is believed that if the wish is granted then the total amount of stones in the bag when it is opened will be 41. On the following Ninth of March, the stones are replaced, whether the wish has come true or not.

After mutual visits there is feasting, games are played, wishes are made and entertainments organized and big fires lit. On the night of 22-23rd March, folk plays are performed, and the games and chatting continue until late in the evening.

Among other Nevruz traditions observed in Anatolia are "Mart ipligi" (March yarn) where pieces of cloth are tied to trees in order to protect them from the sun and "Mart bozumu" (harvest in March) which is especially seen in the Giresun area. In "Mart bozumu", water taken rivers is sprinkled over peoples’ houses. People wait for a visitor who is known as the bringer of good luck to come and say, " I am unfastening your March."

In Tekirda�?, Nevruz is regarded as the end of the cold weather and the beginning of spring, and is celebrated as "Nevruz celebrations."

In Edirne, during the Nevruz celebrations held on March 22nd, people go to picnic areas and old straw mats are burned as people jump over them. Kirklareli celebrates Nevruz as the Ninth of March when people prepare various food and go to picnics.

While Nevruz is celebrated in the Urla district of Izmir under the name of Festival of Ninth of March, at Tire, another district, it is known as the "Sultan Nevruz Holiday."

Nevruz is also celebrated at U�?ak, where the term "yil yenilendi" (the year has been renewed) is used.

In Sivas, if thunder is heard on the Ninth of March, this is taken as a sign that the harvest will be plentiful.

In Sebinkarahisar, it is beieved that if someone bathes in a flowing river on the morning of March 22nd that will give him strength and good health.

It is known that the old calendar used to begin in March. The first 12 days of March represented the months of the year, and the events to come during the year were believed to be foretold by the events that took place during those days. It is a tradition for seven specially selected couples only to eat things beginning with the letter S.

The Ottoman sultans attached great importance to Nevruz, when they were greeted by being presenting short texts called Nevruziye. On this day, the chief astrologer of the sultan would present him the new calendar, and the financial reward he received on that occasion was known as "Nevruziye Bah�?isi." Sweets called Nevruziye were prepared by the chief physician of the palace with various spices and were offered to the sultan's family and relatives. Specially made for that day, these would be be offered in covered porcelain bowls. A piece of paper indicating the time when these should be eaten on Nevruz day, as determined by the chief astrologer, would be attached to these bowls.

While Nevruziye were originally given only to the poor and the sick, there later came to be a huge demand for them, and to ensure that there was no injustice the practice began to be abandoned. Mesir and Nevruz sweets come from the same roots and both have medicinal properties.

Despite some differences in practice, Nevruz has become a traditional festival and is observed among the Turkish communities of Central Asia, in Iran , Anatolia and the Balkans on the same dates and for very much the same social and specific reasons.

Nevruz, which is still celebrated in Iran as well, has a legendary character. In these legends, Cemsid, who is believed to be the discoverer of fire, has a particular importance. In Iran it is believed that God created Adam on the day of Nevruz and that the stars were then divided into the signs of zodiac on that day. Nevruz continues for 13 days in Iran .

1- Azarbaijan
    21st March Nevruz Festival (Official Holiday)
2- Kazakhstan
    21st March Nevruz Festival (Official Holiday)
3- Kyrgyzstan
    21st March Nevruz Festival (Official Holiday)
4- Uzbekistan
    21st March Nevruz Festival (Official Holiday)
5- Turkmenistan
    21st March Nevruz Festival (Official Holiday)
6- Turkey
    21st March Nevruz Festival
7- Norther Cyprus Turkish Republic 
    21st March Nevruz Festival

The following is the text of a telegram dated 24th March 1921 from Neriman Nerimanof, president of Azarbaijan, to General Mustafa Kemal on the occasion of Nevruz;

"The Commissiary of Southern Caucasia, the cadets of the Free War School of Azarbaijan, the two squadrons of cavalary and artillery, the sharpshooting Turkish soldiers celebrate the Nevruz holiday of the Turkish nation and hope that the Reformist Azarbaijan Army, together with the heroic Turkish Army, will soon save the eastern countries which are under pressure from Western imperialism. Long live the Eastern Reform Leader Mustafa Kemal"

Source: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism

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