Nauroz (new day) is the traditional Afghan New Year’s Day also known as “Farmer’s Day.” It is the most ancient festival in Afghanistan and is also practiced in Iran. Held on March 21st, it corresponds to the first day of spring and is actually the first day of the Persian Calendar, which is based on the solar year.

For the Nauroz celebration, people dressed in traditional clothes made or bought just for the occasion, visit family members, friends and neighbors. Many people participate in tree-planting ceremonies held across towns and cities.

Nauroz is also marked by family and friends getting together for many different kinds of activities like games and picnics. Young men take part in traditional games like Buzkashi. Kite-flying, a very popular pastime in Afghanistan is also practiced by both adults and children. Beautifully-constructed kites, in different sizes and colors dot the typically blue cloudless skies. Kite-flying is also a popular competition. Many contending kite-flyers treat the kite-flying thread beforehand with the carefully-prepared formula in order to enable it to cut competitors' strings in mid-air. Sometimes, bidding is part of the competition in which the last kite remaining flying is declared the winner. There are also amusement parks for children throughout towns and cities. Children enjoy the different rides, balloons and pink cotton candy. There are also boiled egg fights, where a contender holds his egg high (with the point facing down) and strikes at the egg of his opponent in a downward motion in an effort to crack the tip of the opponent’s egg (whose point is facing upward). If his own egg cracks, then it is the turn of the opponent. The winner gets to collect the eggs and eat them. The eggs are usually dyed red.

The celebration is also marked by traditional music and dance. One of the most famous songs heard during Nauroz is “Mullah Mohammad Jan,” an Afghan love story. The atan, a traditional Afghan dance, is usually performed toward the end of the festivities. People get in a circle to dance while rhythmically clapping their hands. This dance begins slowly and gradually builds up speed up to a climactic end.

Another equally important aspect of Nauroz is food. For the special occasion, the traditional Haft Mehwah (seven fruits), a cocktail mix of seven dried fruits soaked in water and especially prepared less than a week before is served. This dish symbolizes fertility and the end of the dry season. In addition, a specialty called Samanak is made from young wheat and cooked in a big pot over fire during the night while singing traditional songs. Sabzi Chalao (white rice and spinach) is cooked and served as the main dish.

The many culinary delights prepared beforehand, which include an assortment of special Nauroz cookies and other sweets such as jilabi, are placed on a beautifully-decorated Sufra (a big piece of cloth, either placed on a table or on the ground) with a candle lit on it. Family members then gather around the Sufra for the announcement of the New Year. This is soon followed by a prayer for good health and happiness, plenty of food and finally the exchange of gifts.

“Nauroz Mobarak” (Happy Nauroz)