Novruz Bayram – World Blog Surf Day

Today is World Blog Surf Day, an event organied by Sher over at Czech Off the Beaten Path, where expat bloggers from all over the world,come together on the same day, write on the same theme, and then link their blogs to form a chain of blog posts that will let you “travel” the world from the comfort of your own home!  The theme for 2009 is Holidays and Celebrations.

Baku 2008 135

Soon after we moved to Azerbaijan we were introduced to the holiday of Novruz or Novruz Bayram, a celebration of the Spring Equinox.  Rooted in Zoroastrianism, it dates back 3,000 years and has survived both Arab and Soviet attempts to destroy it.  It’s a holiday that’s celebrated throughout Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran.  You’ll see it spelled Nowrooz, Nowruz, Noruz, or even No Ruz and in Azerbaijan it’s celebrated every March 21st

Our first introduction to it was the repeated ringing of our Baku apartment doorbell one Wednesday evening, quickly followed by the sound of running feet and giggling.  When I opened the door a wool cap was lying on my doormat but the owner had vanished.  I had no idea what was going on and assumed that as newly arrived foreigners we were just being teased by the local kids.  Imagine how bad I felt when I found out we were supposed to fill the cap with candy and that this was one of the traditions leading up to the most popular local holiday.

In fact the four Wednesdays prior to Novruz are all special days, named for the four elements, Water, Fire, Earth and Air, with the last one being the most celebrated.  As well as the “trick or treating” small bonfires are lit in yards and on sidewalks all over the city and people leap over them 7 times in order to purify themselves.  Even small children, much to the horror of western mothers like me.

Baku 2008 126

At home the house is spring cleaned and everyone is kitted out with a new set of clothes.  One of the best things about holidays in my opinion is that they’re usually accompanied by special food.  Novruz is no exception with a heavy focus on sweets and cakes (yum!).  In addition there is a special plov (a rice dish with meat, dried fruits and nuts) and the table is decorated with plates of freshly sprouted wheat grass, candles, coloured eggs, fruits and nuts.

Baku 2008 142

On Novruz morning in Baku everybody heads downtown to Fountain Square where there’s a huge open air concert featuring local singers and traditional dances.  Generally everyone has a few days off work and enjoys spending time with family and friends. 

And now I will introduce you to the next blogger in the chain, Colin over at Exile Lifestyle, who at the age of 24 has decided to step outside of his native North America for the first time and travel the world while also running his virtual own business.  This is going to be a fascinating blog! 

Also why not follow our official World Blog Surf Day Twitter reporter Karen, the Empty Nest Expat, an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, “Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing–and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.”

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19 thoughts on “Novruz Bayram – World Blog Surf Day

  1. Judy, how fun to read about a holiday in Baku, Azerbaijan. I think your location is the most remote one yet. Wow, they know their culture is strong when two empires have tried to snuff it out and it just keeps on ticking. Thanks for being part of World Blog Surf Day!

  2. Hi Judy, thank you for such an informative post! I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few Nowruz celebrations with Iranian friends here in Vancouver, but I didn’t know about the “trick or treating” or the bonfires.

    Have a lovely WBSD!

    • I had giardia last year, and I can't imagine trying to do 70+ miles with it. I barely got off the couch except to hit the crapper. Sometimes, we're thrown a set of obstacles that, in the end, are insurmountable. As much as our minds think we can beat them, the vulture eats you. You are just as much of an inspiration in victory as otherwise.

  3. Great and very interesting post! This is definitely a new holiday for me, too. I loved the historical background you shared–and your pictures, too!!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  4. I had to laugh about you not knowing what the wool cap was for, I would’ve had no clue either! We live in an apartment building but some other people said they’d had children ringing their doorbell on Nov 11 and couldn’t figure out what on earth was going on. It seems us expats need a crash course on holidays where people are going to swing by and expect something 😉

  5. I completely relate to that feeling of missing a custom because you simply just don’t know. But I suppose we all get used to it. And how lovely that people just stop by like that.

    It’s something I love about expat life that simply didn’t exist where I lived in the US.

    Thank you for sharing these traditions with us. Like others here, I had some idea of the Novruz holiday from Iranian friends in the US but didn’t know the details.

  6. What an insightful post. A celebration of Spring, almost. And to me, Spring is definitely worth celebrating (be gone harsh winter!).

    Thank you for stopping by my blog. I will come back for more!

  7. Did the kids came back the following year? Great post, that is what I like most about WBSD, the possibility to learn more about other cultures and to read about things I would normally not come across! SY

    PS My own blog post for WBSD suffered an emergency url change (don’t get me started on the ‘why?’) please! Unfortunately I have lost also all comments I had *sniff-sniff* and can’t retrieve, transfer them to the new location, SY

  8. Prior to this post, my knowledge of Novrus probably extended just to that fact that I remember that there is such a celebration, but could not have said when it occurs and what it marks. Thanks to you, that little bit of information has now been expanded, thanks!! 🙂 I love your write-up on this day, I’m intrigued and will look up more details. A great post for WBSD!

  9. Judy – A facinating post about a holiday/celebration I knew nothing about. Thank you! And thanks for dropping by on my blog & commenting. I’m trying to reciprocate a few days late!

    • Thanks so much for this informative article Judy!! I’ve learnt something new&sure you had a most enjoyable time celebrating as an expat!!

      • Thanks Maureen. I went back to Azerbaijan for a short holiday in 2008, from Dubai and took Helga with me. We stayed with my Azeri friend Nicky who is still in Dubai (maybe you met her at a coffee morning?). We were there for Novruz and it was lovely to celebrate it again. Here in Toronto there is quite a large Persian community and it’s good to see they have brought this tradition with them.

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