Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Novruz, Baby!!!

Happy Novruz, everybody! March 20th and 21st are the two days that Novruz is officially celebrated to bring in the new year. There are a lot of traditions that go along with this holiday, and lots of fun as well. A lot of families grow a kind of grass that kind of look like sprouts, each year and plant them in their yard for new beginnings. They also pluck the first flowers of the year and bring them into the house. My family took a picture with them after we ate. The grass is grown kind of in a similar way as a Chia Pet, with the seeds placed on some soil in a dish, covered with a thin piece of cloth, and watered until they have grown. The main difference, of course, is that this isn’t grown in the shape of an animal or anything like that. Just the shape of the dish, usually kind of roundish. They also spend a day or two before the holiday cleaning most every inch of their houses, kind of a spring cleaning sort of deal. Not that fun of a tradition, but I suppose it’s got to be done every now and then.

Another tradition that you can probably guess at is the food. As I may have mentioned, Lankaran has a famous dish called lavangi which is like stuffing for chicken or fish. It’s very delicious and one of my favorite meals, if not the favorite. So they cook a bunch of rice with sweet raisins on it and serve fish and chicken lavangi, and some other stuff that I’m not sure the name of. It’s all good, although I tend to stay away from the fish if given a choice. Just a personal preference. They also cook a bunch of sweets and cakes for dessert that are always good and I do believe I ate myself stupid with all the chicken, rice and desserts that I ate.

Two more things that most families do, at least from what I have heard here in Lankaran, is jump over a fire (called “tonqal”) and go to the river early on the 21st. The fire jumping is a bunch of fun. My family made 7 small fires in our little garage/yard and we all took turns jumping over them. My host dad kept yelling a prayer/chant that basically says, “May all the bad be left behind in last year.” If you haven’t guessed or read elsewhere, the fire jumping is supposed to leave all your bad things behind in the last year and start this year fresh and clean. I have a few pictures of this as well. On the morning of the 21st, a bunch of families go to the river to wash their hands and faces and bring some water back to spread around their yard, another cleansing ritual for the new year.

This is one of the biggest holidays and everyone gets all geared up for it, which makes it a lot of fun. Also, we don’t have work for four days, and who doesn’t enjoy that? My nene is home from Russia right now which is always nice because there’s always someone home to dote over me and she cooks awesome desserts. In other news, Ashley has moved into his own place and has been tasting the sweet taste of independence lately. I found a house that is about a 30 minute walk from my work, but the lady living there told me originally that she would be out of her house around the end of the month, after the holiday. Now she is saying that she isn’t sure when she may move out and that it could be May or June. So I told her to let me know and I am continuing my search for a house. Finally, my parents will be arriving in Baku on Friday to spend a little over a week with me here in Azerbaijan. Some friends and I will be going to Baku this weekend to hang out with them and then I will bring them to Lankaran and hopefully show them a good time. We are all excited. Ashley’s nene and my family keep asking when they are going to be here and if I will bring them over and all that, so it should be fun for them to meet everyone. That’s about it, look for more next week.

The pictures included are: My dad lighting the 7 tonqals, my nene jumping over the fires, Ulvi jumping over the fires, me and nene, the table of sweets and fruits that they have out each year and the host family.


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