On March 21, Kyrgyzstan celebrated Nouruz (Navruz, Nooruz, Nowruz, etc). It was explained to me by several people that it’s a Muslim holiday to celebrate Spring. Wikipedia tells me that it is, in fact, Iranian New Year, with traditions dating back to Zoroastrianism. (Which, of course, we all know is a religion that pre-dated Islam. Eh? Eh?)
Nevertheless, people in Bishkek (the majority who are neither Persian nor Zoroastrian) poured into the city’s main square to celebrate the holiday. There were many yurts set up, colorful flags and banners, craft tables, balloons, and so so many photo backdrops where you could get your picture taken with various animals (bunnies, doves, peacocks) that, from what I understand, have nothing to do with Nouruz traditions.
Some highlights included a concert of pop singers (eee!) that apparently replaced a last-minute cancellation of a big parade, and hundreds of vats of a sticky, brown goo that served as a one-day-a-year Nouruz treat.
The goo, called sumalak, has a fairly labor-intensive process, which makes it so special. It is cooked by women, who cover wheat in water, let it sprout, grind it all together and cook it down to something that resembles a nutty, lightly sweet pancake batter. More Wikipedia research tells me it’s related to samanu, a traditional pudding of Zoroastrian Nouruz celebrations, which symbolized affluence.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t too fond of the taste.
These two guys, on the other hand, couldn’t even put down their cups of sumalak for the picture. (This was the first photo I ended up taking that day. As soon as I pulled out my camera they marched right up to me and asked that I take their photo. Then they walked away. Thanks guys!)
Back to the title of this post, this is the 5th celebration of the New Year I’ve experienced in Kyrgyzstan since 2012 began.
January 1st – Regular New Year
January 14th – Russian Orthodox New Year
January 23rd – Chinese New Year
Sometime in February – Kyrgyz New Year (can’t confirm this, but several people told me it’s a real thing)
March 21st – Persian New Year
It was a fun day, lots of colorful decorations and traditional costumes (so many kalpaks!) to gawk at, but at this point, I’m ready to just settle in and enjoy the passing of 2012, rather than a new beginning every few weeks.
(That is apparently a popcorn kernel…)