Times for celebration
A big part of a nation’s identity is determined by it’s national holidays. Or at least, what they stand for. In Kyrgyzstan it is mainly an opportunity for the whole family to gather together. There are surprisingly lot of public holidays -celebrations, no work or school that day- here. The most interesting examples are probably the International Women’s Day on March 8 and that they still have (with opposition of a lot of Kyrgyz people) November 7 as a holiday honoring the Great Socialist Revolution in 1917. But what are those special days, when the whole nation regardless of age or region come together?
New Year’s eve
As everywhere else in the world, Kyrgyzstan also celebrates the first day of the new year according to the Gregorian calendar. Preparations start around a week before, when people buy Archa (pine –not christmas!- tree), cook soups, manty, prepare at least 3-4 different salads and buy loads of mandarin and orange. On the night of 12.31. the family gathers and celebrates together until the clock hits midnight. Afterwards the older children are free to party with their friends, or join the crowd celebrating on the main square of Bishkek, Ala-too square. It’s interesting to mention that even the people, who are living a more humble life spend a lot of money for a proper fun.
Celebrating the spring equinox on March 21, Nooruz marks the start of the Persian new year. Although it is of Zoroastrian origin, the Muslim countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus also declared this day as national holiday after gaining independence. Kyrgyz people hope that Nooruz will erase all the misfortune and bring prosperity. The symbolic gesture for this in older times -and sometimes even today- was that they burned a branch of Archa in the house. The families and close friends once again come together from across the country (sometimes it’s even more than 50 people!) to eat traditional food, like sumolok, which is only cooked once every year by mixing water with wheat seeds, nuts, rice, flour and 7 small stones, and cooking it for 10-12 hours. Lamb or horse sacrifices are also made in some families. Nooruz is also a perfect time for organizing National Horse Festivals (featured photo)!
May 9, Independence Day
Connecting to the Soviet Union one way or an other, these days are good opportunities to release some tension and have some fun. The huge army parade with speeches by the President, and several veterans on May 9 honors the victory of the Allied forces and the sacrifices made by the Kyrgyz soldiers in World War II. The crowd escorting the infantry and tanks marches from Ala-too square to the Eternal Flame in Victory Park, accompanied by aircraft parade from above all the way.
August 31 sees the celebration of Kyrgyz independence (1991) from the Soviet Union. Altough the relationship with Russia remained friendly, this day is the peak of patriotic –and nationalistic- feelings in the country, thus somehow carries a controversion. Kyrgyz people would describe the event like a huge show of singers, dancers and other performers on the streets and stages in the city centre.
Orozo Ait – Kurman Ait
Defined by the lunar calendar, the dates of these Muslim celebrations vary each year. Orozo Ait (Eid al-Fitr) marks the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting, Ramadan. On this holy day of forgiveness, families gather once again, invite their neighbours, friends and have a huge feast. Mass praying is also something, that you can come across on the big squares of cities. 70 days after the end of Ramadan, Kurman Ait (Eid al-Adha) is the day of sacrifice, when Muslims remember of Abraham’s willingness of sacrificing his own son to God. People usually donate money and food for those in need.