Springtime is just ten days away! And no one celebrates the Coming of Spring like Central Asia. Since ancient times, the Spring Equinox is the region's biggest party. Called Nowruz (Persian: New Day), it is an official holiday in fourteen countries including Iran, Georgia, Uzbekistan and...the best STAN of them all...KYRGYZSTAN! Confused? Here are five things you need to know about NOWRUZ.
#1. Spring Equinox. Given the scientific nature of their society, it comes as no surprise that Ancient Persians were advanced astronomers. Priests calculated...down to the exact second...when the sun is precisely over the Equator. BAM! This is when the festival officially starts. Today, Central Asians have digital clocks counting down the days, hours and minutes left to the start of Nowruz. It is much like the New Year's Eve countdowns in the US.
Wind and rain have gone. Lord Nowurz has come.
Friends, convey this message. The New Year has come again
This spring be your good luck. The tulip fields be your joy.
#5 Nowruz and Islam. Up until the year 750 AD, Zoroastrianism was a major religion. It commanded as many adherents as Buddhism and Hinduism and dwarfed the tiny Christian and Jewish populations. But it was no match for Islam. Voracious jihads converted all but the most fervent followers, who were forced to locate to remote regions of Yazd in Eastern Iran (where they still live today!) However, powerful Islam was unable to stop Persians from celebrating their favorite holiday. Today, its popularity is as big as ever. Iran will close down for the next two weeks to celebrate the now-secular NOWRUZ.