Nowruz is a traditional festival of spring celebrated by Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia which marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.
The festival has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Every year the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes, night and day is calculated. This is when families gather together and observe the Nowruz rituals. Usually this is the 21st of March or the previous/following day.
In Afghanistan, Nowruz is celebrated widely. The festival is also known as Farmers Day, which usually lasts two weeks, ending on the first day of the Afghan New Year. People in Afghanistan like to start the Nowruz preparations several days beforehand, usually starting from the last Wednesday before the New Year.
For Nawruz, Afghan families prepare traditional meals such as Qabuli Pilau; a rice dish mixed with caramelised raisins and carrots, with haft-mewa; the sweet Nawruz dessert that is made with seven symbolic dried fruits, mixed in water.
During the Taliban rule, Nowruz was banned in Afghanistan but despite this, it continued to be celebrated by Afghans, secretly, in their homes.
Another special Nowruz dish is Samanak, which is a sweet paste made of wheat flour. Samanak requires several weeks of preparation. Women gather, which is essentially a “girls night in” in which they prepare the dish from late in the evening until daylight, while singing special songs.
How are engaged couples celebrating Nowruz in Afghanistan?
Engaged couple in Afghanistan look forward to Nowruz most. The man who is to marry the girl, his fiancée, is expected to take fresh fish, Afghan sweets (Jelabi), dried fruits with flowers and presents to the girls home with his family. The families then gather together and sing, read poems and dance after a traditional Afghan meal together. Afghan couples in Europe and around the world also celebrate Nowruz as they would have if they were in Afghanistan.