Wheat the symbol of Navruz. Photo credit of A.Primkulova
There is joy and happiness in the air in Tajikistan at the moment just before our New Year – called Navruz! Some of you may have heard of this wonderful festival which has been celebrated for over 3000 years. Navruz literally means ‘new day’ from Persian (the language we speak in Tajikistan). It is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samanu .
This holiday also is celebrated in Iran, most of the Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan. The whole of Tajikistan celebrates it. So there is one week of celebrations and they are public holidays.
I remember growing up and waiting for the most important part of Navruz celebrations without which there is no Navruz – this is ‘sumalak’ (as we call it in the northern part of Tajikistan). Sumalak is the most mysterious thing about this holiday, since well before the 21st of March women gather in someone’s house to make a special paste…it has to be stirred all night. But this is the fun bit and why I always look forward for sumalak... During this preparation women put on lovely music and we dance all night :) Dancing and me goes well!
And, one of the mysteries of sumalak is that you need to make a wish while you stirring… something special and you know what, it does work - all the wishes without any exaggeration which I have made came true!
This is me making a wish last year and stirring with concentration the sumalak and making one great wish which again did come true for me!!! Hurray!
Also, according to legend people make sumalak way ahead of Navruz it is widely perceived that sumalak brings some rain. Rain which is needed for the harvest. Isn’t it so magical but when people make sumalak it does rain!
When sumalak is ready you try it with the little finger for some reason for three times first and again make a wish. It is good if you taste as many different sumalak as you can.
Also, when you are ready to stir the big pot of sumalak you have to put a headscarf on. So it has its own beautiful rituals which we follow and carry on generation after generation. I really hope that in this modernised, globalised world our new generation, our children and grandchildren do carry and preserve our special traditions which are full of mystery and magic!
This is how sumalak looks like as a finished paste. Looks like chocolate but doesn't take like one.
Apart from sumalak making and tasting, there is much more going on with people visiting their families, cooking tasty meals and going to concerts. Beautiful women and girls all make sure they wear traditional gorgeous clothes.