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Public holidays


New Year's Day 1 January
Orthodox Christmas Day 7 January
Orthodox New Year 14 January
Army Day 23 February
International Women's Day 8 March
Nowruz 21 March
Labour Day 1 May
Constitution Day 5 May
Victory Day 9 May
Kyrgyz Independence Day 31 August
October Revolution Day 7 November


It is likely that October Revolution Day will be abandoned as an official public holiday in the near future. Other important days in the year that are not officially holidays are 1 September, First Bell, the first day of the new school year in which children dress up in their best clothes to go to school. Teachers' Day follows on the first Sunday in October.

Nowruz (Navrus), which takes place on 21 March, is probably the most important of the traditional holidays in Kyrgyzstan. The festival, which dates back to Zoroastrian times and is celebrated throughout central Asia, is a syncretic mix of Zoroastrian, Islamic and old shamanistic practices that celebrate the spring equinox. Although pagan in origin, Nowruz has been adopted by Islam in the region and is even celebrated with great enthusiasm in religiously conservative Iran. Since independence, Kyrgyzstan and the other central Asian republics have reclaimed Nowruz as a national celebration after it had been officially discouraged, and even banned for a short while, during the Soviet period.

At Nowruz, a special meal that symbolises spring is prepared that includes seven items that all begin with a 'sh' sound: sharob, shir, shelter, sharbat, shirinkilar, sham and shorn (wine, milk, sugar, sherbet, sweets, a candle and a fresh bud). In addition to this, sumalak, a special dish made of sprouted wheat, is served to women only, while men have their own special dish, halim, a sort of meaty porridge. Archa (juniper) twigs are burned for good luck, friends are visited, debts are traditionally paid off and the whole region celebrates with music, dancing and traditional games.


Kurban Ait (Feast of the Sacrifice) - Known as Eid ad-Ahda elsewhere, takes place 9 weeks after the end of Ramadan and is a signal for the beginning of the hajj season, the pilgrimage to Mecca (although few Kyrgyz actually do this). It is traditional to slaughter a sheep at this time if you can afford to.

Orozo Ait (End of Ramadan) Otherwise known as Eid al-Fitr in Arabic, is the celebration that follows the end of Ramadan in which a large meal is shared by families and friends, gifts of new clothes are given to family members and alms arc given to the poor. Ramadan is not rigorously observed by the Kyrgyz but it is taken more seriously by Kyrgyzstan's more orthodox Uzbek population.