Novruz is marked to celebrate the arrival of Spring season and means the beginning of a New Year. The first day of Spring in calendar signifies the annual turn of Sun.
The historical roots of Novruz Holiday go back to the very ancient times of prophet Zardusht, (Fire Worship) – its age is within 3700 – 5000 years.
This holiday has been celebrated in ancient Babylon on the 21st of Nisan month (March and April) and lasted 12 days. Every of these 12 days had its own ceremonials (rites) and entertaining events. The first tangible heritage monument says that Novruz holiday has appeared in 505 before Christ.
Islam gave religious patterns to Novruz. But such great thinkers like Ferdowsi, Rudaki, Ibn Sina, Nizami, Saadi, Hafizi have openly stated that Novruz holiday has emerged far before Islam. Writings dedicated to Novruz are the following: “Siyasetname” of Nizami and “Novruzname” of Omar Khayyam.
Azerbaijan – the Land of Fires – has right traditions related to Fire Worshipping and in this cultural context, Novruz represents by itself the Symbol of Redemption. “The Akhyr Chershenbe”, which means the Last Tuesday before Novruz arrival, is celebrated by making a bonfire and everyone regardless of his/her age and sex should jump over the blessed fire at least seven times. Seven times jumping over the same bonfire or one time over seven bonfires. As this rite is being honored, one should said: “My yellowness is for you, your redness is for me”. The fire is never extinguished by water. It goes out by itself and then, boys and girls collect its ashes and throw it far away from native home. All this procedure means that the Redemption is done with ashes thrown away.
The Redemption using water is linked to the belief that it is a kind of purification force. During Novruz, if you jumped over the brook, it means that you have got the Redemption from all your past year’s sins. There is also another rite: to throw water to each other in the last night of the outgoing year. There is a saying that the night to next Tuesday before Novruz is marked by the stopped brooks and rivers. Everything tends to worship waters and even trees are bending downwards. If anyone will drink such water in New Year’s evening, will preserve himself from illness.
The culmination point of Novruz is marked when the old year hands over its competencies to a New Year. In accordance with ancient traditions, people used cannons and guns to shoot in honor of Novruz. Even in XIX century, N.Dubrovin wrote about this ceremony: “Cannons shots in cities and villages have announced about the arrival of Spring in Azerbaijan”. Adam Oleariy who participated in festivities organized in Azerbaijan on the occasion of the Novruz holiday, wrote: Determining the Sun height by the astronomic devices and Sun-dial, the astrologer has announced the following during the equinox: “The New Year has come”. This announcement has been immediately accompanied by cannons shots. Music tones started to be played from city towers and ramparts. The Spring holiday has begun this way” (1637).
During Novruz, the table should have seven dishes starting by the letter “S”. It should also reflect sumakh (dried barberry), vinegar, milk, semeni (sweet soup made from wheat malt with flour), sebzi (greens) etc. Mirror and candles are also put on the table. Colored eggs are placed in front of mirror. All of this is full of many symbols: the candle means fire and light which protects anyone from the evil eye. Mirror means clarification.
Traditions say that every member of the family should be at home during the first day of the holiday. People believe: “If you will not be at home during the first day of Novruz, so you will miss it seven next years”. In ancient times, external door was never closed as a rule. Light is always switched on during the first day of Novruz because the extinguished fire predicts misfortune.
Celebrating Novruz, villagers define how useful will be the newly come year. Will the new year dry or rainy? What will be the crop? In accordance with traditions, the first day of Novruz is deemed as Spring, the second is Summer, the third is Autumn and the fourth one is Winter. If the first day will appear as tranquil and clear, it means the whole year will yield good crop.
Novruz is the joyful and loved holiday. Novruz is the holiday which reflects the traditional values of Azerbaijani people.
Note: A new rule has been enacted from 2006 which stipulates that if the holiday is coinciding with a day-off, the next following day is deemed as a day-off.