Tajiks Hold ‘Great Feast’ to Mark Persian New Year

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People in Tajikistan celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, by setting a special table with seven items beginning with the Persian /m/ sound.

Tajiks mark Nowruz with a ritual named the Great Feast. During the first few days of Nowruz holidays, which start on March 20, all residents of a town or city converge on a place called Nowruzgaah (literally meaning the Place of Nowruz) and celebrate the joyous occasion with different cultural, artistic and sports performances.

According to a report by the IFP’s Cultural Desk, their celebrations are somehow different from those of Iranians who, among other things, set a table with seven items beginning with the Persian /s/ sound, mark the thirteenth day of Nowruz holidays by picnicking and spending the day outdoors as a sign of respect for Mother Nature, and set up bonfires and jump over them on the last Tuesday night of the Iranian calendar year to ward off evil.

The Nowruzgaah in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, was constructed seven years ago with a capacity of 20,000 people, and was later refurbished using Iranian cultural symbols. In addition to the capital, each year one location in Tajikistan is introduced as the official host of Nowruz celebrations. However, Nowruz ceremonies are held simultaneously in all towns and villages across the nation.

The 4th, 5th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th plus 21st through 26th of March this year have been declared official holidays in Tajikistan. Nine of those days fall on Nowruz holidays.

As a Persian-speaking country, Tajikistan pays due regard to Nowruz traditions. Since two years ago, Tajiks have included Samanu (a kind of pudding made from germinated wheat), Sambousek, Shirberenj (pudding made with milk and rice), candles, fish and Miseh (a kind of mountain herb) in the special tables they set for Nowruz.

The decision to set a special table with seven item beginning with the Persian /m/ sound plus several other items to mark Nowruz was made by the Dushanbe Municipality three years ago in a bid to honour the glorious occasion.

It was decided that gold fish, shrimps, musk, May (a kind of local drink), Miseh, bananas and pears be included in the table. The items are traditionally part of the Nowruz celebrations.

Before 1991, the former communist Soviet Union regime, which had, for 80 years, ruled the Central Asia, including Tajikistan, sought to strip the Tajik nation off their Nowruz culture. Nevertheless, Tajik people continued to abide by their ancient traditions and kept Nowruz celebrations alive, according to a Farsi report by IRNA.

Many infants born on the 20th or 21st of March in Tajikistan’s Badakhshan region are named “Nowruz” or “Nowruz-shah” or “Nowruz-gol” as Nowruz celebrations are enormously popular there.

In Tajikistan, the most important food item for Nowruz is Samanou. It is popular nationwide. While cooking Samanou, people recite verses suggesting the popularity of the food.

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