The 21 of March marks the spring equinox, and is celebrated by the Kyrgyz as the Persian new year, Nowruz.
This tradition is over 3,000 years old and is still kept today by many countries of the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, Nowruz is the name given to the entire month of March, not only to this one special day.
Nowruz comes from two Persian words meaning knowledge and day. It corresponds to a day in the year when the day and night are the same length exactly, twelve hours. Therefore, it is believed that man and nature are in harmony: it’s a period of rebirth and awakening.
On the night from March 20th to March 21st, Kyrgyz family traditionally prepare the Sumalak, a soup made from sprouted wheat, with some flour, apricots and raisins. It is cooked in the courtyards or in the streets, in big cooking pots called Kazan. Before, in some regions, this process lasted 24 hours and women of the village relayed each other. Some also add small stones to the mix to keep the soup from burning. These stones are also used as wish stones. They are taken out before eating.
The eve of Nowruz, Kyrgyz also clean their houses, pay their debts, do good deeds and ask for forgiveness. During the holiday, all of Kyrgyzstan is animated by folkloric festivals, theatres, horse competitions and games, and concerts.
An importance is given to family meals, in an atmosphere of respect. Nowruz is supposed to bring a year of joy, wealth and fertility to those who celebrate it. Traditionally, you have to eat at least 7 meals and visit 7 houses to get the luck on your side!