Today is  not only St. Patrick’s Day, but also the annual spring holiday, Novruz in Azerbaijan.  My friend Aysel, from the capital of Baku, was kind enough to tell me about it.  Based on how Aysel described it, it almost sounds like combination of Christmas, Easter, New Year’s,  and Halloween with a slight druidic touch.  🙂

Four weeks after Equinox, they begin to celebrate this holiday.  Novruz celebrates the end of the previous year and welcome’s the new spring season by honoring each of the four elements of fire, water, earth and wind.  One of the interesting customs for Novruz involves burning a small fire or candle every Tuesday, and jumping over it.  They believe that doing this will ward off any sickness and keep them healthy though the year.  Another interesting custom (that reminds me of Halloween a little bit) is the custom of going out and putting your hat in front of your neighbor’s door, knocking on the door, hiding and waiting for your neighbor to come out to put traditional cookies (shekerbura and pakhlava) and then they close the door, at which point you come out and take your treats!

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On the final Tuesday, they gather and practice soothsaying to determine who and when each woman will marry.  Families gather together on Novruz for a traditional feast with a large copper tray at the center of the table with candles and  Samani (green shoots with wheat seeds) in it and it is surrounded with eggs which were dyed by the family, one for each member of the family.  All over, traditional folk bands play and people dance and participate in various sports competitions like horse or camel racing.

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Anyone want to try jumping over THIS fire???

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