March 26th, 2022
By Sami Khisrow
The arrival of spring marks the beginning of a new year in many cultures and societies around the world.
Pakistan’s neighboring countries like Afghanistan, Central Asia, Turkey and many other states call it Nowruz (new day) which began in Iran around three thousand years ago. Nowruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs in the last week of March. In these countries, the starting point of the calendar year falls on this day.
In view of this importance, the United Nations declared Nowruz an international day in 2010 by including it in the UNESCO World Heritage and Cultural Festival.
“Nowruz represents the arrival of the spring season which signifies change, joy, and life,” says Sabz Ali Baig, a scholar on local cultures and customs. “On a personal level, Nowruz is about how an individual can help bring happiness and joy in the lives of others,” he explains the significance of the festival.
Like other countries, Nowruz is celebrated with religious and traditional fervor in the northern regions of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Chitral.
With the arrival of spring, the women in every household in Chitral engage in the preparation of traditional food on Nowruz. At the same time, dried fruits are also distributed as gifts to children and relatives.
“It’s a cultural festival where we welcome the spring season,” says Musarat Fatima, a female student in Chitral, tells Voicepk.net. People mark the festival by cleaning their houses and cooking traditional dishes.
Chitrali Halwa is one of the traditional sweet dishes prepared on the festival day. Walnut is the main ingredient in savory Chitrali Halwa. “We also prepare Kheer (pudding made from rice and condensed milk) on Nowruz,” says Kainat, another student, as she explains local customs associated with the Nowruz festival. People wear new dresses and decorate their homes at the festival.
Interestingly, villagers plow their fields on the morning of the festival to herald the arrival of the new farming season. The festival also witnesses the holding of local sports, most notably polo matches.
Another traditional sport is egg fighting, which is usually enjoyed by children.
“The Nowruz new year festival begins with healthy activities like sports, particularly polo matches,” says Sohail Danish, a local sportsman. “Beginning your new year with healthy activities will leave a good impact on the rest of the 12 months,” he explains.
Nowruz is a unique festival that guarantees cultural unity and shared traditions. It conveys the message of peace and goodwill among the nations of the world.