“Novruz” (translated as “new day”), which celebrates the New Year and the arrival of spring, is the most ancient and cherished holiday in Azerbaijan. Celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox (March 20-21), Novruz means the affirmation of life in harmony with nature, awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labor and natural cycles of renewal and a solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life.
Preparations for Novruz begin four weeks before the actual day of festivity. Each Tuesday of these four weeks is devoted to one of the four elements, and is named accordingly, so there is Water Tuesday, Flame Tuesday, Earth Tuesday and Wind Tuesday. During this time of preparation, people do house cleaning, plant trees, make new dresses, decorate hard-boiled eggs, and make national pastries such as shakarbura, pakhlava and a great variety of national cuisine. Every Tuesday preceding the holiday and on the day of Novruz small bonfires are lit in courtyards, and people jump over them as an act of purification. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and tended. Novruz signifies not only the New Year and arrival of spring but also represents unity, love and respect for ancient traditions and customs.
As with Christmas in the U.S., children are the primary beneficiaries of the Novruz festivities. They are given sweets and cookies as well as presents. They carry out traditional games, such as laying a cap outside the door of a relative or neighbor, knocking the door and then hiding until the cap is filled with sweets by persons living there. Jumping over the small fires is also a fun experience for children. Novruz was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. In February 2010, UN General Assembly recognized the 21st of March as the “International Day of Novruz.”