Nowruz in Kazakhstan

In recognition of the new attack, this time in Brussels, I’m posting this week’s blog a day early.  May we all remember that in the world, many will usher in their new year today in peace.  …

Nowruz is a happy holiday, celebrated for over 3,000 years by billions of people.


Thanks to Kazinform.ckz
Thanks to


And before I went to Kazakhstan, I’d never heard of it.  

Here’s how I described the holiday in At Home on the Kazakh Steppe, at the start of Chapter 15:

Spring, officially beginning on March 1, couldn’t come soon enough for me, and with it came Nauryz (pronounced NOW ruz), a holiday celebrated on March 22. Observed throughout Central Asia and beyond, it is perhaps the oldest holiday in recorded history, a contribution originally from the ancient Persian religion, Zoroastrianism. It’s New Year’s Day for the nearly one and a half billion Muslims around the world, and I had never heard of it.

Banned during Soviet times, Nauryz still wasn’t an official holiday in Kazakhstan, but schools, banks, and businesses across the nation closed. The entire town, it seemed, flowed down Alashakhana, despite the fact that the day was cold and cloudy with a raw wind that made being outside most unpleasant.

Since I wrote that, a few things have changed.

It is now (officially) spelled more like it is pronounced:   Nowruz.

It is now an official holiday in Kazakhstan.

Better yet, it is now officially celebrated over FOUR days, from March 21 to March 24. This is cause for celebration. Here’s why, again from Chapter 15:


Nauryz is a happy holiday, the symbolic start of a new year. Nauryz also ushers in the “new year” in relationships. Debts are paid and family members or neighbors who have fought during the year, reconcile.


Four officially happy days. 


We could use a little Nowruz in this country, don’t you think?


How about you? Who would you reconcile with? Which debt would you pay back? How would you start anew? 


Next week: my Chincoteague “Ladies-In-Writing” retreat recap.

12 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Thankfully, I don’t need to reconcile with anyone that I know of at the moment. However, I can never ever pay back the debt I owe to my forebears, especially my dearly departed Mother and Aunt Ruthie, still living.

    I owe a debt of gratitude to you, Janet, for hosting another memorable writers’ week. If you come to Florida, maybe I can re-pay it in part. Ha!

    (FYI: The little notification box does show up here. I’ve checked it.)

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian,

      Yes, we figured out the little reply gizmo sitting around the table the other night. That was fun. Remember?

      It was a good week, wasn’t it. I’m so glad you could participate again.

      Safe travels.

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Reflecting on delayed flight – hope to reach Florida before midnight. Happy to be included in second – go – round.

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    We talked a bit about this while you were working on the post. I don’t necessarily have a debt to pay or people to reconcile with, but I agree with Marian that I owe you a debt of gratitude for bringing us all together! After our retreat, I do feel a sense of renewal, which is consistent with spring and rebirth. I imagine that as one reflects about the past year, it is also to see what we can improve and to remember good memories, at least that’s how I take it.

    Happy New Year, Janet! 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m very glad you came, Merril. I’ve found social media to be a powerful ally in building community. We all certainly share interests. And when I can add that all important ingredient of face to face time, well, it’s a gift I’m pleased to be able to offer.

      Happy Nowruz to you too.

  4. Marianne STamm
    | Reply

    Interesting thoughts on beginning a new year! I’ve just begun a new year with a birthday. I’m glad too, that I don’t have someone to reconcile with. Debts to pay: yes, pay-it-forward for all that I have received in my life. I am incredibly blessed with family and friends on at least three continents, including a number of years spent in Zambia.
    Thank you for positive thought to offset the dark news!

  5. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hello Marianne. Thank you for stopping in and commenting. And how great that your world encompasses so much. Three continents! Fantastic. Had you observed Nowruz on any of them before? I was always struck by how popular this holiday is around the globe, yet here in America I’d never even heard of it.

  6. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    HI Janet,

    I love the idea of wiping the slate clean with relationships and other matters weighing us down. To have a holiday dedicated to this specific effort is even more intriguing, like putting it all out in the garbage so it can be carted away, leaving room for the things in life that really matter. I appreciate this refreshing message and reminder in the midst of so much negative news. Thank you!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Kathy. What I didn’t mention in the blog post is the part of the holiday that involves visiting seven families. No invitation, you just drop in. I kept wondering what happens if you go to visit someone and they are off visiting someone else. And you’re not home while someone else comes to visit you… An endless loop. Dina just said they never think of such things. And it all seems to work out just fine. Lessons in that.

  7. […] year” and with much the same focus, minus the ashes on the forehead. Back in 2016, I wrote here about observing Nowruz when I lived in Kazakhstan. Fasting is not a part of Nowruz, but […]

  8. Janet S Morrison
    | Reply

    What a lovely holiday! Yes, we could certainly use four happy days here. I’d settle for just one day when people on opposing sides politically stopped spewing hate.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Janet. Oh, the hate is so debilitating. Discouraging. Depressing. I tend to simply stay away from anyone with that tendency, which is probably a cowardly thing, but I currently just don’t have the energy to deal with them. Life is too short. (And now with the permafrost thawing, it may be even shorter. Don’t get me started!) That’s why I enjoy your blog; you embrace life, you ask the important questions, and you are kind. And I’m glad I found you. 🙂

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