Newroz (March 20) does have no specific meaning for European people; however, millions of people worldwide, especially the Kurdish people, celebrate this day as the beginning of a new year. Newroz-which means a new day- is an indication of spring’s arrival.
Newroz has been chiefly celebrated in Persia and Kurdistan and some other Turkic republics in the Asia. The feast took its roots from Zoroastrianism, the oldest monotheist religion on earth and was practiced in ancient Persia.
The Kurdish people have also embraced Newroz as a national awakening day due to the mythological narration behind the feast.
What is the story behind it?
According to the legend in Kurdish mythology that can be traced back to 2500 years ago, Kawa the blacksmith had been living under a ruthless, cruel Assyrian king named Dehak. The king’s soul had been possessed by Ahriman, the evil in Zoroastrianism. Two snakes were passed on to Dehak by Ahriman, claiming that if these were fed with the brains of young kids, he would not feel any pain.
This tyrant was regarded as a beast, who fed snaked on his shoulders. So, every day, to feed these snakes, the king would order his footman to bring young Kurd fellas, sacrificing and taking out their brains as food for the snakes.
Under the king’s administration, spring never came, which has a meaning that indicates reaping season. As it never came to those living off the land, there had always been starvation and food shortages.
One day over the king’s request, Kawa’s last daughter was to be killed and brought to the castle the very next day to feed the snakes. Kawa lay all night on the roof of his house pondering. The following day, he rode his horse, gently pulling the heavy iron cart with a buck rattling on the back. He was overly nervous, emptying the cart at the castle entrance.
After his departure, the guards came out of the castle, taking the buckets into the castle. The brains were to feed the snakes on the Dehak’s shoulders. When Kawa got back home, he saw his wife lying in front of a log fire. He knelt down and lifted his wife’s cloak. They succeeded in keeping their last daughter alive under the cloak.
Kawa had killed a sheep and put the brain into the bucket instead of sacrificing his daughter. Afterwards, the townspeople heard of this. Once Dehak demanded they sacrifice a kid, the locals did the same. As a result, many hundreds of children were saved. All saved kids went up to the furthest and highest mountains where no one tracked them down. On the hills of the Zagros Mountains, children grow up enjoying their freedom and safety.
These survivors gathered in the mountains and trained themselves. They all learnt to take care of themselves and stand on their own feet. They became self-confident, learning how to fight and use swords, shields etc. Then, they turned into an army under the leadership of Kawa, a brave and good-hearted blacksmith whose 16 of 17 kids were slaughtered for the snakes
Henceforward, the army marched to the king’s place on March 20. Kawa killed the king with his sledgehammer. Just after, he went to the palace’s courtyard to light a massive bonfire to declare the kill of the king. The flames leapt into the night sky, cleansing the air out of Dehak and his evil deeds. The darkness was gone. Those who saw this fire returned from the mountains, hosting survivors for years, to the plains and celebrating the victory. Then, after decades of oppression, on March 21 finally, the sun came through the dark clouds, warming the mountainous land again. The seeds began to sprout, the flowers started to blossom. Spring just came.
Who celebrates Newroz?
It is also an official holiday in Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. In Turkey, it is publicly celebrated on another date under the name of Hidirellez.
UNESCO, the cultural body of the United Nations, added the fest to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, describing “It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighborliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.”
March 21 is officially recognized as International Nowruz Day, despite it being celebrated between March 19 and 22, depending on the region and country.
How is it celebrated?
The Newroz festival is celebrated by people gathering in areas chosen beforehand by local committees and associations. Participants wear their traditional colorful clothes. People dance the halay, a folk dance, singing songs together.
The sacredness of fire stems from ancient beliefs and Zoroastrianism. Lighting a fire and jumping over it is indispensable for the celebration. Thus, people think they banish badness from the earth, making spring’s arrival easier.