Afghan Culture Festivals and Celebrations Nowruz in Afghanistan: Everything You Need to Know Nowruz is a traditional festival of Spring; it starts on the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The name ‘Nowruz’ comes from the ancient Avestan language meaning ‘new day’ and the festival symbolises the rebirth of nature, new life and new beginnings. When exactly is Nowruz celebrated? The precise moment when the Earth's equator passes through the centre of the Sun's disk, making the length of the day and the night exactly equal, is calculated every year and this dictates when the festival is celebrated. Usually, the equinox happens sometime between 19th March and 21st March. Where is Nowruz celebrated? Although Nowruz has Persian and religious Zoroastrian origins, the festival has been celebrated by a diverse array of communities for thousands of years. Today, 300 million people celebrate the festival worldwide, including most in Afghanistan, to promote the values of peace and solidarity both within families, among friends and across communities. Nowruz in Afghanistan People are happy during Nowruz. They buy new clothes for their children. They host parties for their friends and family and they cook a traditional food named “Samanak” on Nowruz days. The girls and women sing songs during the cooking of Samanak. It is a happy time! When is Nowruz celebrated in Afghanistan? In Afghanistan, celebrations customarily last around two weeks, culminating on the first day of the Afghan New Year, which this year will be celebrated on Monday 21st March. Preparations for Nowruz traditionally start after Chaharshanbe Suri, which takes place on the Wednesday before Nowruz and literally means “scarlet Wednesday.” Chaharshanbe Suri is also known as the festival of fire as many people, particularly in Iran, commemorate it by gathering in an open outdoor space, making a bonfire and jumping over the flames singing “sorkhi-ye to az man; zardi-ye man az to.” The phrase means "your redness is mine and my paleness is yours" and is considered a purification practice. How is Nowruz celebrated? At home, Nowruz celebrations include preparing Haft Mewa, which literally means seven fruits, and is a fruit salad made up of seven kinds of dried fruit. This is prepared instead of or in addition to the Haft Sin, an arrangement of seven items, whose names start with the Persian letter “sin,” that symbolise what people want in the New Year. For example, “seer” meaning garlic is traditionally placed on the spread as a symbol of health. As for larger celebrations: traditionally in Mazar-i- Sharif the Guli Sorkh festival or Red Flower festival starts on Nowruz and includes seeing red tulips bloom. Jahenda Bala includes the raising of a colourful banner outside the Blue Mosque on Nowruz itself, and a tournament of Buzkashi, the national sport that involves horses and goats. Farmer’s Day in Afghanistan The day following Nowruz is Farmer’s Day, which is marked across the country with ceremonies and displays of agricultural products and livestock. A large, multi-day exhibition is held in Badam Bagh, Kabul each year, at which new ideas and practices, as well as products, are traded between farmers. From everyone here at Afghanaid, we wish all those celebrating a very happy and peaceful Nowruz! How can you help? During these challenging times, donations are more important than ever. Please give what you can to our current appeal, and help us support vulnerable Afghan families.