The ancient holiday of Nevruz/Nowruz (نوروز in Farsi) is coming up either this weekend or next, depending upon who you ask. Being very curious about holidays and the like – as well as being super excited to jump over some bonfires – I asked a Turk I knew about the celebration of Nevruz in Malatya. I ended up with this Turk’s view of Nevruz:
I don’t personally believe this story, but some Turkish people do. A long time ago, I don’t know when, the Turkish people were actually stuck in a valley surrounded on all four sides by tall mountains. The Turks couldn’t pass over the mountains for a long time. They were stuck there, in this mountain valley.
Stuck in this valley, the Turks started to fight and die. There was not enough space to support all of them. This lead the Turks to start iron smithing. You know, Turks were very good iron smiths historically. Anyway, they started to iron smith and make tools.
With these iron tools, the Turks were able to clear a path over one of the mountains and escape. From there the Turkish peoples became free and poured out into the world. The exact date of this is unsure. Some people say March 23, some people say March 1. Some people say this happened at the beginning of April. The old chronicles say different things. For this reason the Turkish government standardized the date at March 16, but some people continue to celebrate on other days.
We call this day Nevruz for two reasons. Firstly, because Nevruz is the name of a spring flower. Since we escaped in the Spring, this flower is very symbolic for us. Secondly, we call this holiday Nevruz because it symbolizes and means ‘new beginning.’
In fact, this holiday is very important for us, but the Kurds have started claiming it as their own. You see the PKK say that Nevruz, they say Newroz, is their holiday, not ours. They try to claim it and use it as a platform for themselves. They try to show their links to it, saying that the Nevruz flower has the same colors as their flags and things like that. They try to use the holiday as a chance to proclaim their message.
I think it’s common, though, for minorities in other countries to try to claim something important as their own. It is their way to try to make themselves important, or bigger. This is not just a Kurdish thing, I think minorities all over the world do this.
What’s interesting for me is that 90% of people don’t know the true meaning of Nevruz. They will just believe what people tell them and not look into it. That’s why I think studying history is so important. You can see the truth of what people say, and understand the patterns of the world better.
As a point of reference, Nevruz started off as an ancient Iranic Zoroastrian festival celebrating the beginning of Spring and the new year – Nowruz literally means ‘new day.’ The holiday was traditionally held on the Spring solstice every year, but for some political reasons the official celebration in Turkey is held on March 16, although people celebrate it from the 16-23, depending on who they are. Due to the fact that prior to the arrival of the Turkic peoples in Central Asia and the Middle East the majority of the peoples were of Iranic stock, Nevruz is still celebrated from the east of Turkey through to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the like.
This story is just a fascinating example to me of how cultures can assimilate each other’s stories and holidays over the course of time, and manage to put their own spin on it. Of course, as the speaker said, most people don’t believe in this story and I’ve never actually heard anyone else confess to this belief either.