March 22nd, 2010
12:43 PM ET

It's a new year in Afghanistan

Editor’s Note: Nasim Fekrat started the Afghan Lord blog in 2004 in Afghanistan, where he grew up. He is now a student at Dickinson College in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. The opinions expressed in this guest blog are solely those of Nasim Fekrat.

This year, the Nowruz festival holds even more significance and importance in the lives of Afghans since the United Nation’s General Assembly recognized March 21 as International Day of Nowruz.

Nowruz, banned under Taliban rule, begins on the day of the vernal equinox (the first day of spring) and marks the beginning of the new year. Every year, three days before Nowruz, tens of thousands of people travel to the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e Sharif to watch the elaborate ceremony.

Nowruz is celebrated for two weeks throughout Afghanistan. People wear new clothes, refurbish their house, paint the buildings and henna their hands. Young girls go with their mothers to holy shrines and pray to have a good future, a good life and a good husband and be fortunate while the boys have an eye on their parents to decide who is fair and suitable for him.

One of most famous of Nowruz traditions among Afghans is to forget and forgive mistakes of one another and start the New Year with new hopes and new goals. During the first three days of the year, families and relatives meet and visit each other’s houses. These are parts of Afghan traditions that date back centuries.
Jashni Dehqan, which literally means the festival of farmers, is also celebrated in the first day of year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. For the last few years, President Hamid Karzai always participated in the festival of farmers and encouraged the farmers in agricultural productions and environmental green movement. This activity is being performed in Kabul and other major cities, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate.

One of the most significant symbolic traditions of Nowruz in Afghanistan is Haft Mewa, or “Seven Fruits.” (Haft Sin, or seven “S,” is a similar tradition common in Iran.) The “seven fruits” table starts with seven dried fruits: raisins, senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), pistachios, hazelnuts, prunes (dry fruit of apricot), walnuts and either almond or another species of plum fruit. Haft Mewa is like a fruit salad, served in the fruits’ syrup.

Haft Mewa and Haft Sin’s philosophy is almost the same. The seven items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals called Amesha Sepanta (meaning “bounteous immortal” in the Avestan language) protecting them. The seven elements of life - namely fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and human - are represented.

 Some Afghans have never forgotten the bitter period of their life during the Taliban regime when they were banned or excluded from the traditions. Celebrating Nowruz always involves music and various entertainments that from the Taliban point of view, were forbidden. Another reason that the Taliban banned Nowruz was that women have a significant role in the Nowruz ceremony. In the time of Taliban, women were not allowed to participate in any ceremonies that music played and dancing was involved.

Traditionally, Afghan women celebrate Nowruz with Samanak: it is made of wheat germ and is a special Afghan female tradition. They cook it from late in the evening until daylight. During this cooking time, the women gather around and sing Nowruzi songs, accompanied with special drums and dancing. No men are allowed to take part in this ceremony.

According to BBC report, the director of the Nowruz festival in Mazar-e Sharif said that this year an estimated 120,000 people throughout the country are traveling to Mazar-e Sharif. The ceremony always taken place in the Shrine of Hazrat Ali, also known as the Blue Mosque.

One part of the Afghan New Year is a speech by President Karzai, outlining the events of the past year and his programs for the new year. After the official speech, the president calls upon the special security guard to start the New Year celebration with three shots of a cannon. Following the three shots, a huge flag is raised from the ground. People watch the movement carefully - if it rises hard and slowly, a bad year is predicted but if the flag is risen gently, the new year is predicted a fortunate and happiness year.

When the day’s ceremony ended, the night’s ceremonies arrive, full of music and concerts. Every year, top singers are invited by the government to travel from Europe and America to northern Afghanistan and sing for the new year celebration. Not only Afghan singers are invited but groups of musicians and singers from Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are included to participate and demonstrate their culture alongside Afghan artists. After the official ceremony, people head to a huge field for a game of buzkashi, an ancient traditional sport where riders on horses compete over a goat or calf carcass.

This year, all Afghans are hoping to start a good year with changes and improvement in security issues. Some refer to the Marjah operation as a successful example of fighting against the Taliban insurgency and wish that the Taliban will be wiped out in the southern region. Afghans are excited that from now on, Nowruz will be recognized by the United Nations as it becomes part of the world’s many heritages.

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Filed under: Life and Culture • Your View
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. shekeb

    yes Nuroze is really a good day for Afghanistan people because all the year they are waiting for this day one of these people is i am.
    i like Nuroze but be aware it is celebrating is sin in Islam.

    March 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sabawoon

    Our prohet Mohammad pbuh only celebrated the two Eids not new year you guys gotta underestand that.

    March 22, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. AFG CANADA

    So, what the speaker of truth is saying is that celebrating a new year is bad...? is there not a new year in the Islamic calender as well? so, what you are saying is that afghans cant celebrate a holiday that has been around over 5000 years because in your books its bad and against Islam? i really dont think so, but thats just my opinion
    - Afghan Canadian

    March 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sabawoon

    Speaker of truth you are absolutely right, there is no nuwrooz in islam and shoud be avoided,

    March 21, 2011 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. khal momin

    yes we should focus first about education because education is very essential in afghanistan
    we have seen many darkness because of not havingnice education but now afghan student has taken oath
    to get ducation first to progress in afghanistan
    good luck afghan student i really miss my country i leave in pakistan

    March 9, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. ahmad

    Well, I think we should be cool minded, and focus on our behavior or the ability to response. Focus on education and try to have quality education............................... not POLITICS now.

    January 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • khal momin

      i am a student who leaves in quetta i never see nowruz in afghanistan
      yes i am related from kunduz but i wish to see 2011 nowruz in afghanistan

      March 9, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. james roberts

    keep the war going.... it wil bankrupt USA.

    Then we'll w/d our troops from Afghanistian, Iraq and other countries America wants to control, exploit (you have to laugh as CNN reported today $1 Trillion dollars in potential mineral wealth Afghanistian)

    Why do you think we're in Afghanistian... to exploit their natural resources. This was a public relations disaster as everyone with a brain knew Afghanistian had economic and/or strategic value. Americans aren't humanitarian, we invest when the return is higher for America.

    June 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Zach

    I would like to see more stories about the good that is being done in the foreign countries which our military is present. I have not once seen anything about a PRT or ADT mission on any reports.

    Thanks,

    Zach

    May 5, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kurt Ehrlich

    We need to get out of Afghanistan TODAY. Lets spend our Money in the US.The Muslims are only here to attack & kill christians. This is the most corrupt government in the world,even worst then mexico.We need to destroy the Opium Fields and get out.Not one more american live should be lost for theese people.
    If you are looking for terrorists just go to Detroit, they are here already.

    May 2, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. FM

    I am afghan student in US, Can't wait to go back home and celebrate next new year with my family. Thanks to US efforts in Afghanistan !

    April 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Saturiwa

    It is refreshing to hear of celebrations in a country that has been poisoned by religious extremists. The world awaits the day of extermination for those brain washed by a ridiculous fairy tale. The days of the Taliban are numbered. Any religion that believes the planet will be destroyed because of prophesy is retarded. The Afghan culture is rich in tradition and history. I am glad to hear of the progress being made. The world will celebrate the day all the Taliban and it's followers are dumped into a shallow mass grave.

    April 16, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. parveeni

    Yes, eid is a beautiful time of recognition of renewal and redemption. Hopefully, the world will come closer to understanding itself as a whole, unavoidable and irrevocable roots that bind us all together somewhere in time.

    April 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Visitor

    It gives me comfort and pleasure that women on that side of the world, can actually enjoy something in their lifes.

    March 25, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Gawhar Begum from Balkh

    Farahnaz!

    To make distinction, Nowruz is Afghan ancient festival while in other countries like Tajikistan and Iran it is called the first day of the year or New Year. In Iran and other countries they celebrate Nowruz only for one day but in Afghanistan people spend two weeks to celebrate Nowruz.
    In Afghanistan, there is a culture of Nowruz, it is pervasive and comprehensive within the culture, many believe more Afghan festival. Afghans are very proud and this year the celebration of Nowruz in northern Afghanistan was extraordinary. Every year there were 80 thousands of people traveling to Balkh but this year more than 150,0000 people gathered from around Afghanistan to Balkh to celebrate Nowruz as an Afghan phenomenon.

    Unfortunately, Pan-Iranism and Iranian Nationalists have been always trying to underestimate the importance of Nowruz in Afghanistan and call it Iranian which is completely wrong.

    Today, the world hear the voice of Afghans they learn about Afghan culture and their civilization. With the internet Afghans will be able to change the world's view and you will realize it one day that Afghanistan will stand on its feet and regain all its national heritages which is now claimed by Iran.

    For example:
    Avicenna (Hussain ibn Abdullah ibn Hassan ibn Ali ibn Sina) is an Afghan thinker who was born Balkh province in northern Afghanistan read more here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avicenna

    Rumi was born in Balkh:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi
    Al-Farabi was born in Farah
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Farabi

    March 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • mohammad

      Its so sad you are saying like that, imagine you cut an apple in two pieces, then tell me the major difference between them? we use to be part of a great empire, Persia, you and me we share same blood. Iran pakistan afghanistan and most countries in middleeast use to be persia, Traditions like nurooz is shared among us its not yours or mine.

      December 15, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ramkhelawan

    Thanks to Almighty God, the Afgans do have something in common with the rest of our lovely humanity – THEY TOO CELEBRATE THEIR NEW YEAR, like all other cultures on earth do – CONGRATULATIONS!!!! After observing their outburst of colour and splendour it will really worth the while remembering the event every single day of their lives. Should this same enthusiasm last throughout the rest of the year there will be more love and friendship which breeds even more love and friendship in this marvellous land. It´s time to live and let live and to love and let love. PLAN YOUR WORK – WORK YOUR PLAN.GOD BLESS ALL YOU LOVELY PEOPLE.

    March 24, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Farahnaz

    I would like to know why there is no mention of the Persian roots of this tradition.
    How it goes back to the Persian kings. Afghani brothers and sisters had been part of the Persian culture for a long long time so were many other countries in the neighborhood.

    Thank you,
    - An Iranian American

    March 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Habib

    It's beatiful to see people celebrating life and its beauty. Happy Nowruz from an Iranian friend.

    March 22, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  18. speaker of truth

    There are only 2 holidays in Islam, eid al afha and eid al fitr, every other holiday is consider bidah, and not allowed in islam, which is why the Taliban banned it, Love how the news tries to make them look bad, any muslim with have a brain can tell you this holdiay is a innovation in islam, and should be avoided,

    March 22, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |