The New Year in most parts of the world is celebrated on the 31st of December, which does not really have any religious, astronomical reasons but rather a bureaucratic one – “the new year was moved from March to January, in Roman Empire because January was the beginning of the civil year, the month when newly elected Roman consuls began their one year tenure”.
Population of Central Asia does it the same way, the Russians do. They prepare food, bake cakes, very often they cook plov, here is a beautiful photo and recipe of how to make plov at Tolkunistan. But unlike Russian New Year celebrations in Uzbekistan it is more of a family holiday, like Christmas in Europe. After the table was laid, food is eaten, at 12:00 family members stand up and drink Champagne and wish wishes to each other. After midnight, one can await guests and friends visiting and wishing wishes, or pay visits themselves. Till midnight one is supposed to be at home with the family and only after midnight does one go out somewhere, but this is not undangereous with drunken dedushka morozes (Grandfather Frost) and explosives in the streets. This year there was an earthquake just on the New Year’s Eve, here you can read more about it.
Originally Central Asians celebrated New Year on the 21st of March, the day when Spring starts, when day and night are same long, when nature wakes up after long being asleep under the snow. This day is called New Day, or Nawrooz (from Persian or Tajik) originally a zoroastrian/iranian holiday, but has been widely celebrated in many muslim countries, which lets some to misleading thoughts about Naw Rooz being a religious or Islamic holiday.
But for the many New Year has to do with snow, and cold and some uncles wearing costumes of santa or dedushka moroz. In Central Asia, this tradition was brought by Russians, so it is not a long tradition around here, the same like holy wodka, favorite drink of Central Asians, usually preferred to beer, wine or any other spirits.
This winter is a severe one for Central Asians. Afghanistan.ru reports about snowfalls in Afghanistan and about temperature falling down to – 30 degrees Celsius. There are several articles about cold winter hitting heating systems in Tajikistan). In Uzbekistan several water pipes were frozen and there are fears that the whole infrastructure, which is not used to temperatures like -20 degrees, can be damaged causing harm to many households. In Kyrgyzstan, according to BBC World Service, 50 people were frozen to death (Bishkek) . That is obviously another face of global warming, or at least affects of climate change in Central Asia. Even in Kazakhstan,which refuses being part of Central Asia preferring being called Eurasian state, this cold is unusual.
Apropos, there is an anecdote of an Uzbek being in Russia and trying to explain his fellow soviet compatriots that Uzbekistan has the same cold weather as the Russians do: It can get so cold in Uzbekistan that when the cat jumping from one roof on to the other falls frozen in the middle. Uzbeks love partying, he continues,they make weddings outdoors in winter. The singers singing on the wedding just open their mouths and only notes (musical) fall out of their mouths.”
May you have a brilliant year full of achievements, good news and joy! Let there be a place for all of us to warm our selves and our hearts in this frosty winter of 2008.