Novruz in Azerbaijan is referred to as Novruz Bayramy. Novruz is a traditional Iranian holiday, which celebrates the New Year, and the coming of Spring. When Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, celebration of Novruz was generally unofficial, and at times even prohibited. Currently in Azerbaijan, Novruz is treated as an official public holiday. In accordance with Article 105 of the Labour Code of Azerbaijan passed in 2006, workers receive five days off for Novruz.
Usually preparation for Novruz begins a month prior to the festival. Each of forthcoming 4 weeks is devoted to one of the four elements and called accordingly in Azerbaijan. Each Tuesday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements - water, fire, earth and wind.People do house cleaning, plant trees, make new dresses, paint eggs, make national pastries such as shakarbura, pakhlava and a great variety of "national cuisine". Wheat is fried with kishmish (raisins) and nuts (govurga). As a tribute to fire-worshiping every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday kids jump over small bonfires and candles are lit. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and tended.
Novruz is a family holiday. In the evening before the holiday the whole family gathers around the holiday table laid with various dishes to make the New Year rich. The holiday goes on for several days and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk bands, contests of national sports. In rural areas crop holidays are marked.
The decoration of the festive table is khoncha, a big silver or copper tray with Samani placed in the centre and candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it. The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.
History of Novruz
The origins of Novruz Bayramy ("The New Day holiday" in Azeri) stem from ancient Persian culture, signifying the time when the sun enters the Vernal Equniox. The first recording of Novruz comes from a 2 A.D. Persian text, though many historians also believe that Novruz traditions stretch all the way back to the days of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 548–330 BC). Mary Boyce, prominent historian on Zoroastrian festivals, notes "It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Persians to develop their own spring festival into an established new year feast, with the name Navasarda 'New Year' (a name which, though first attested through Middle Persian derivatives, is attributed to the Achaemenian period).
Scientific researches relate the Novruz holiday with the period of the prophet Zardush that dates 3500-5000 years back. This holiday celebrated in the ancient Babylon for 12 days beginning in Nisan (March, April) 21. each of the 12 days had their ceremonies and enjoyment. According to the first inscription the holiday of Novruz established in 505 B.C.
Islam figures always try to explain this holiday from religion point of view. But the prominent enlighteners Firdovsi, Rudaki, Avisenna, Nizami, Sadi, Hafiz and others proved that the age of Novruz is older. Nizami's 'Siyasetname' and Omar Khayyam's 'Novruzname' dedicated to Novruz holiday.
Through Persian culture and influence, Novruz became popular in Azerbaijan and is now the most ancient holiday on the Azerbaijani calendar. Each year, Novruz is celebrated throughout Azerbaijan with special food, extensive spring cleaning, and traditions dating back hundreds of years.
On the four Tuesdays leading up to Novruz, Azeris celebrate each of the elements: water, fire, earth, and wind. The last and the most important Tuesday is devoted to wind and called Yel Charshanbasi or Ilakhir Chershenbe. On Ilakhir Chershenbe, everyone jumps over small bonfires seven times. While jumping, they repeat the phrase: “My yellowness is for you, your redness- for me”, which means “take away my diseases and give me your strength”.
Of course, what is Novruz without the delicious foods! Among the many sweets served at each home are pakhlav (baklava), shakarbura (a cookie with nuts and sugar wrapped in dough), and shorgogal ( layers of pastry flavoured with turmeric and fennel seeds). Tables are set with a large silver or copper tray, with a pot of wheat grass in the center, surrounded by pastries, cookies, dyed eggs, and candles.
Azerbaijanis pay particular attention to table laid for the holiday. There should be 7 varieties of food on the table the names of which starts with letter 'S' , for example sumakh(a kind of spice), sirke(vinegar), sud(milk), samani(grown wheat), sebzi(fried meat with greens)etc. A mirror, with coloured eggs on it and candles should also be on the table. Candle is the symbol of fire and light(keeping a person from damage), mirror is the symbol of happiness.
According to the tradition all the members of the family should be at home on the first day of the holiday. People say: 'If you are not at home on the day of the holiday, you will live without home for seven years.' The outer doors kept open in the past. On the first day of the new year the lights are kept turned on whole night, for turned off light and fire is the symbol of misfortune.
Celebrating Novruz people in the villages determine the peculiarity of the coming year: weather it will be either arid or rainy and determine the degree of productivity. According to the tradition the first day of Novruz symbolizes spring, second day after it is summer, the third day is autumn and the fourth is winter. If the first day is windless and arid, so the spring is going to be favourable for agricultural works, and if it is rainy and windy so the spring is expected to be the same. On the rest of the days they determined summer, autumn and winter.