By: Masouda Qarizada
KABUL: Celebration of ancient Nowruz festival in Afghanistan has a long and rich historical background. Every year, the Afghan people celebrate the beautiful Nowruz festival with special tradition, especial culture across Afghanistan with particular magnificence, specially, in capital Kabul and Balkh provinces.
Nowruz festival is celebrated in many countries with different religious and traditions. Since the beginning of March the Afghan people start to welcome spring and Nowruz with house sweeping, painting of rooms and purchasing of new commodities.
Even in rural remote areas and central provinces whose inhabitants have not been familiar with urban life, before the advent of spring, rural collect white or red color clay from mountain slops and paint their mud houses.
On the first day of New Year, people wear new cloth similar to the color of nature, forests and mountains, but excitement of New Year festival in Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif cities is indescribable. The northern Mazar-e-Sharif city gets a different situation every year with approach of spring and rose flower festival and becomes and welcome ready to host thousands passengers from throughout Afghanistan neighboring and European countries.
Shrine of Hazrat-e-Ali (MGBPWH) in Mazar-e-Sharif has given this peculiarity to this city that its traditional, cultural ceremonies get universal reputation and popularity. On the New Year’s Day, thousands of people gather in Rawza Shrine and Nowruz festival is started officially with hoisting of flag.
Similar function is organized in Kabul among thousands participants in Sakhi Shrine as well as in other parts of the capital like Khawja Safa, Shah Shaheed, Karaz-e-Mir, Istalif etc. the shopkeepers of Kabul central market (Mandavi) gather in Nowruz and hoist a flag called “Togh”, distribute candy and pray at the court of Allah the Almighty for peace and prosperity of the country.
Two or three days prior to New Year social cultures and tradition taken further speed. On night before the Nowruz, which is called as the night of desire, people cook sweet meat and distribute to neighbors, then go to graveyards of their deceased relatives. Most people cook Palaw and meat while vegetable is a must. People use local vegetables.
Haft seen and Haft Maiwah:
During reducing of New Year, beside Haft seen and holy Quran, one big loaf of bread, one cup of water, one cup of rose flower, Samanak, candy white cock, fish, Yogurt, honey, mirror, candle, milk, cheese and painted eggs are served.
Haft seen consists of garlic, Vinegar, grass, sorb, Samanak, apple. Later people recite seven verses from holy Quran which start with (S) and then pray all together with family members. Haft seen is mixed with water at least 24 hours prior to advent of New Year. People also mix red and green raisins, sorb, walnut, dried apricot, pistachio, almond etc and serve them to visiting friends or guests with cake Nowruz festival last 13 days in Herat while 40 days in Kabul and Balkh.
Afghanistan is a mountainous and agricultural country as the main source of its people income is from this sector. Farmers celebrate Nowruz with particular traditions with the participation of government officials with diverse artistic programs. Peasants make a parade and display their traditional instrument, including shovel, spade, sickle, yoke, etc. farmers paint horns and sides of their oxen. People both rural and urbans welcome spring and take it as a good omen and believe it as a national culture.
Despite of being an accepted social culture, unfortunately this tradition has been fading today. People clean quantity of wheat put it in a tray and put it for few days. But everyday take care of it and add some water until it matures. Then cut it to small pieces and grind it. Then infiltrate it with a clean fabric. Then put it in a big pot and stire for several hours to become ready. Next day they open it. During stirring, young girls sing special song of Samanak which is a traditional song and popular among people.
Young girls put their rings into a dish of eater and take omen. The night of Samanak cooking is a real festival for young girls and women.
Rose flower festival
In Afghanistan talking on advent of spring or New Year festival immediately associates rose flower festival which is usually celebrated in Mazar-i-Sharif ancient city. Mazar-i-Sharif becomes red with the intention and strongest hands of Allah the Almighty.
During New Year’s days, Tulip grows everywhere in deserts, valleys, mountain slopes and even on top roofs and mud walls and nature takes another shape. People take refuge to colorful tablecloth of nature and enjoy. Thus, rose flower festival has been changed to an acceptable social, cultural tradition of our people and due to this reason, Mazar spring has gained global fame.
The rose flower is called as corn-rose in Iran. Children specially enjoy this festival with different entertainments.