Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

What is Nowruz? Communities around the world celebrate the start of 1398

Today marks a new year for many people across the globe, including communities in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran and Kazakhstan

Happy Nowruz, or Nowruz Piroz Be: today marks the beginning of a new year for many communities across the globe, particularly those that run along the historical Silk Road. It's estimated that around 300 million people celebrate the holiday.

The celebration of renewal, and the coming spring, is said to date back to at least the 6th century BCE: it is one of the holiest days in the ancient Zoroastrian calendar.

It is marked across the globe, including in parts of Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

While there are many unique traditions connected to the new year that run across the globe, almost all communities will mark today with some sort of feast, and by spending time with family members and friends.

Many households will also clean their house (a spring clean if you will), buy auspicious items like flowers or fish and decorate their doors and windows with floral gardens. Symbolic items will also be placed on a table in the home: including water, candles and traditional food and fruits.

In more regional celebrations, people in Kyrgyztan display traditional horsemanship to mark the arrival of a New Year, and this photo shows people carrying torches up a mountain in Akra, near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan:

Iraqi Kurdish people carry fire torches up a mountain, as they celebrate Nowruz Day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the new year, in the town of Akra near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi Kurdish people carry fire torches up a mountain, as they celebrate Nowruz Day, a festival marking the first day of spring and the new year, in the town of Akra near Duhok, in Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The holiday is a secular one for many of the communities that celebrate it, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians and people of the Baha'i faith. It also marks the first day of the first month in the ancient Persian calendar - this month is called Farvardin.

Nowruz usually falls on March 21, but the date does occasionally change by one day either way. It is always the day of the astronomical vernal equinox. The early origins of the day are said to date back to a mythical king: Jamshid, who saved mankind from an eternal winter.

The celebration was added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010.

Updated: March 21, 2019 01:32 PM

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