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Novruz Holidays in Azerbaijan

24 December 2021

The history of Novruz in Azerbaijan with its traditions of jumping over bonfires and popular entertainment goes back millennia.

Novruz Holidays in Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani people have several holidays connected with agriculture and stock-rearing, which have been celebrated since time immemorial. But the holiday of Novruz, which marks the coming of a new astronomical year and the reawakening of nature, has always been the Azerbaijani people´s most cherished holiday. Novruz is celebrated every year on 20-21-22 March, from the moment of the vernal equinox. But according to tradition, people begin to prepare for this holiday from the last month of winter, continue the holiday celebrations with the arrival of the equinox and carry on celebrating into the.


The history of Novruz in Azerbaijan with its traditions of jumping over bonfires and popular entertainment goes back millennia. Some customs, such as the collective performance of the Yalli dance, are reflected in the rock paintings at Qobustan. Azerbaijanis in the villages near Qobustan today perform these ancient ceremonies to mark Novruz.

In days of old Novruz in Azerbaijan was called Turan and was celebrated for seven days. Under the influence of this custom weddings in Azerbaijan used to last seven days and the number seven is still reflected in the tradition of having seven different dishes on the holiday table.

The centuries of Novruz celebrations in Azerbaijan have left an indelible mark on the poetic heritage. There are many poems devoted to Novruz written by classical authors and modern poets. People have always sung songs about Novruz, both folk songs and professional pieces. The great Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi wrote in his Khamsa or Five Tales that Novruz was celebrated in 350 BC, that is, 24 centuries ago.

Every year Azerbaijanis celebrate the last four Tuesdays of winter before Novruz, which are known as Ilakhir Charshanba. The Tuesdays represent the elements of life – earth, wind, fire and water. There are many poems, songs, rituals and beliefs concerning each of these Tuesdays.


Every year on the eve of Novruz traditional sweets and cakes are made:

SHAKARBURA – pastries stuffed with sweet nut filling and spices
SHOR CHORAYI – a savory puff pastry bun with turmeric or other spices
BISHI –  sweet flat cake
BAKHLAVA  – layers of puff-pastry with nut filling
FASALI – flat cakes
KULCHA – sweet spiced bread
SAMANI KHALVA  – a sweet made from sprouting wheat


Shoots of sprouting wheat are an essential decoration of any Novruz table. A few weeks before Novruz, take a handful of wheat seeds, which symbolize abundance, water them, and sing the traditional song ´Seeds, protect me, and I will grow you every year.´



  • It is traditional to plant a tree at Novruz and in no instance should a tree be cut down. According to popular belief, it is a good sign to plant a mulberry tree, fig tree or chestnut tree at Novruz.
  • The ancient tradition is continued of presenting a khoncha or tray. Novruz tray or khoncha with wheat shoots and sweets of sweets and nuts to people who work on the land. Whoever is planning to build a house believes that the foundation should be laid during Novruz so that the house should always be successful.
  • In the evening on the Last Tuesday children knock at doors of neighbouring houses, leave a hat or small sack on the threshold or throw them over a fence and hide. The householders should return the hats with holiday treats. Every home should prepare different dishes at Novruz and they must include pilaff (Azerbaijan has more than 100 sorts of pilaff). There is a tradition of dying hard-boiled eggs and playing a game to see which is the harder. During Novruz people are given their holiday ´portion´ or Novruz payi. Holiday cakes, samani and candles are put on a tray and sent to neighbours and friends. The tray with holiday cakes is called the khoncha and it should not be returned empty, or the house will no longer be prosperous, according to popular belief.

  • Musical gatherings take place at Novruz. Minstrels and folk singers sing songs and public games are held – tightrope walkers demonstrate their skills, wrestlers test their strength and shows are performed in public squares. The comic show Kos-Kosa is performed across Azerbaijan at Novruz.
  • The number of weddings increases during Novruz. According to popular belief, families created during Novruz will be happy. Boys born during the holiday season are often called Novruz while girls are called Bahar, which means ´spring´.
  • The largest samani or wheat shoots in Azerbaijan are grown on top of the ancient Maiden Tower in Baku. A local beauty, Bahar khanim – Miss Spring, chosen by the people, lights the torch on top of the tower to welcome Novruz.
  • Another ancient Novruz tradition in Azerbaijan, maintained by young people, is to light bonfires on mountain tops at night and remain awake till morning. This custom is called Greeting the Sun and just before dawn the young people sing the song Godukhan in chorus. Just as it has over the millennia, Novruz will come to Azerbaijan again and again. People will light bonfires and when dawn breaks and the first rays of sun strike through, they will exclaim:
    ´Hello, Sun! Hello, Spring! Hello, New Day!´

by Dr. Rafael Huseynov

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