Navruz is one of the most treasured holidays in Uzbekistan. Sometimes known as Persian New Year, Navruz is a chance to celebrate nature, to welcome a new year, and to enjoy flavorful food with friends, neighbors, and family. The most famous of Navruz dish is sumalak, made from germinated grains and stirred for a whole day by the women of the neighborhood.
Navruz originated in Khorasan, in northeastern Iran, about 3000 years ago. Navruz is celebrated on the spring equinox, which is usually March 21. Also known as Nowruz, the holiday is celebrated across Western Asia and Central Asia, all the way to the Black Sea and the Balkans.
Though many people celebrate Navruz as a secular holiday, it is a religious holiday for Zoroastrians. The holiday celebrates the day in the spring when day and night are equal, and is the start of a new year. Traditionally, people forgive their enemies, make amends, help the poor, and cleanse their houses and consciences for a good start to a new year.
Sumalak (also known as samanu) is one of the main attractions on Navruz. Sumalak is made from germinated wheat, and takes a whole night to cook. Women from the mahalla (neighborhood) gather around the pot to sing and stir, so that the sumalak doesn’t burn. In the morning, the warm sumalak is handed out to neighbors, relatives and friends. With the first taste of sumalak, you should make a wish.
Tables are laid with plenty of food, including samsa and plov, plus nishalda, a sweet dessert of whipped egg whites, and sugar. People pay visits and welcome guests, using Navruz as a time to share what they have with others. Horse games and sporting competitions are also popular, as are fairs with traditional dishes and souvenirs.