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Holidays and festivals

In Tajikistan many common holidays are celebrated, such as Teacher’s Day, Independence Day, and other professional holidays and etc. However, one of the more remarkable holidays that have been celebrated from ancient times are Nawruz and Idi Kurbon. If you visit Tajikistan during the season of Nawruz and Idi Kurbon celebrations, then you should definitely experience the festivals. 

Nawruz – is a New Year which is celebrated during the spring equinox and is translated from Farsi as a "new day". It was known from the pre-Zoroastrian period and it was celebrated until the 7thcentury BC in Akhamenids’ state (6th to 4th centuries BC) and during Sasanids (7th to 3rd centuries BC). It is considered that the origin of this celebration is linked with the cult worshipping of the sun with the name of the legendary prophet Zarathustra. The oldest sources where Nawruz celebration is mentioned is the holy book of Zoroastrianism ‘Avesta’. Celebrating Nawruz on the day of spring equinox is linked with the emergence of the solar calendar which came to existence in Central Asia and Iran some 7,000 years ago, before the emergence of Islam. According to the calendar starting from 20 or 21 of March, the day of the spring (vernal) equinox, this is the day when the day equals the length of the night and spring comes into its full force. 

Long before the festival, for about two weeks, wheat and lentils are sown. By the holiday their green sprouts should reach 5-7 centimeters and become decorations for the table, and a symbol of new life. Closer to the holiday grain is sown one more time in order to become the base for the holiday dishes. Another national dish that is prepared for Nawruz – Plov is prepared and another main dish on the tables is Sumalak. The process of making Sumalak is very long and labour-intensive. Sumalak is prepared by women only. Sumalak is a peculiar liquid khalva, made out of germinated sprouts of wheat, which are ground and then boiled in a copper pot in oil. This dish is considered very healthy, and is rich of vitamins and amino acids. In rural areas all relatives and neighbours gather around the copper and by turns continuously mix Sumalak. While the dish is being boiled women sing songs and dance. The night turns into a small celebration. In the morning Sumalak will be distributed to those who participated in its preparation and who shared the ingredients. Those, in their turn will distribute Sumalak in pialas (small bowls) to their relatives and friends. 

Another grand and respected day, is day of sacrificial offering – Eid-i Kurbon or Eid al-Adha (in Arabic). This holiday is linked with the Muslim (lunar calendar) of Hijra. The history of the holiday goes back to the famous story about the attempt of patriarch Abraham to offer his son Isaac for sacrifice to God. Not all Muslims can go for pilgrimage to Mecca, participate in the main festival of Muslims and make sacrificial offering personally. Therefore, the laws of Islam encourages Muslims to implement the culmination part of the custom not only in Mecca but in every place where Muslims live. 

Celebration starts from early morning. At first light Muslims go to the mosque for morning prayers but before doing so, they need to take a ritual bath, put on new and clean clothes. Taking food is forbidden before prayers. Mulla or Imam will preach which starts from praising Allah and His Prophets; then origins of hajj and importance of the ceremony of sacrifice will be explained. By the end of the ceremony Muslims go home and start the ceremony of sacrifice. Before slaughtering an animal, it will be thrown down on land with its head to the direction of Mecca and sugar candy (nabot) will be put in its mouth which will then be taken out as it will become blessed. The sacrificial animal should not be younger than a year and be healthy without any deficiency. It is considered that a sheep or a goat can be used for sacrificial offering only from one person, while a cow, a bull or a camel from seven persons. Part of the meat is given to poor people; another part will be used to make a meal for the family. A Muslim, who offers an animal sacrifice should not be lavish with the food and must offer food to the poor people. The ritual food – khudoi, sadaka – is prepared to avoid any kind of misfortunes and diseases. During those days every family tries to visit relatives, friends and give gifts. 

Among festivals, one of the special and popular festivals is Falak Festival – a genre which emerged a thousand years ago. Historians state that long before Islam, falak was invocation to god; people would sing about their sorrow, joy and aspirations. Falak is translated from Tajik as ‘sky’ or ‘fate’. In this genre forms of verses of rubai, bayt and verses from folklore and classical Tajik-Persian poetry are used. Usually falak is performed with the accompaniment of musical instruments such as dutar (dumbrak), string-bow instrument (gijak) and wind instrument (tutak).

Date Holiday: 
Jan 1 New Year's Day 
March 8 International Women's Day 
March 20-22 Navruz (Persian New Year) 
May 1 International Labour Day 
May 9 Victory Day 
September 9 Independence Day 
November 6 Constitution Day 
November 9 National Reconciliation Day
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