Jamshed Navroz is celebrated to mark the Zoroastrian New Year which falls on the 21st of March every year as per the Parsi calendar. The festival also marks the commencement of the spring season as the Vernal Equinox falls on 21st March. Zoroastrians across the world commemorate this occasion with great zeal and enthusiasm. In Afghanistan too, the festival is celebrated with immense splendor and grandeur. Furthermore, the celebrations last for about 2 weeks. Various traditions and customs are followed to mark this festival. Numerous delicious dishes are made on this special occasion. Read on further to know more about Afghani Nowruz traditions and rituals.
Nowruz Celebrations In Afghanistan
The preparations for Jamshed Navroz begin several days ahead of time. The major preparations can be seen after Chaharshanbe Suri which is the night on the last Wednesday before the New Year. Unlike the Haft Sin which is common in Iran, the Afghanis prepare the Haft Mewa (seven fruits). Haft Mewa resembles a fruit salad as it is made from seven different dried fruits, namely, raisin, senjed, pistachio, hazelnut, prune, walnut and almond, and served in their syrup. Another special sweet prepared on Jamshed Navroz is samanak, made from wheat germ. Women spend the entire time from late evening till the daylight for cooking this sweet dish. They sing a special traditional song during the cooking process:
Samanak dar Josh o ma Kafcha zanem - Degaran dar Khwab o ma Dafcha zanem
On the eve of Nowruz, various special delicacies are made, like sabzi chalaw (dish made from rice and spinach, separately). The bakeries include a type of cookie called Kulcha-e Nowrozi, made only on this occasion. Mahi wa Jelabi (fried fish and jalebi) is also made but is mostly specific to Nowruz picnics. In northern cities of Afghanistan and in Kabul, a Buzkashi tournament is held apart from the other customs and rituals followed. Buzkashi is a team sport played on horseback wherein the rider has to grab the carcass of the headless goat or calf. As part of the celebrations, the Afghanis visit Istalif, Charikar and other green places where Cercis flowers are grown. These places are mostly used as picnic spots during the first two weeks of the New Year.
The first day of the New Year marks the Jashni Dehqan which means ‘The Festival of Farmers’. The farmers gather and walk around the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. Lately, this custom is mainly followed in Kabul and other major cities. Another popular custom followed is that of kampirak. He is an old bearded man dressed in colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary. He, along with his followers, passes through the villages distributing the gathered charities to the needy reciting poems. This tradition is mostly prevails in central provinces of Bamyan and Daykundi.