Georgian Azerbaijanis and The Spring Jubilee

Khatia Nikabadze, Georgia

We were happy.
As children, we used to make a torch from fabric. We would ransack old rugs and scraps of fabric and round them into a ball. Some would hold the ball tight and others would wrap wire around it. Then we’d soak it in kerosene, light it and circle it over our heads, yelling: „Nowruz! Nowruz! Give us our Nowruz!“ Adults would come out of their houses and give us sweets, galettes (biscuits) or eggs. We would knock on neighbors‘ and relatives‘ doors, ask for more and then go home with a bag full of sweets, cookies and eggs. Once home, our parents would scold us, asking, ‚Where have you been?‘ ‚To collect sweets!‘ we’d shout, laughing.
Today the torch is no more. There are just bonfires. People jump over a pyre and make a wish that their pain and troubles go away and that health, kindness and long life come in the new Nowruz Bayram, they say.
We were happy.
Childhood memories of Nowruz, new day, are among Yetar Yusubova’s most precious. Today, as it was then, every March, as the days grow longer, the air gets balmier and the flowers start to bloom, her village Irganchai, home to a large Azerbaijani community, is in full anticipation. Nowruz is the jubilee for the arrival of spring.
Nowruz Bayram, which translates festival of the new day, is central to the life of Georgian Azerbaijanis, the largest minority group in Georgia, making up about seven percent of the whole population. Traditionally Georgia’s president and prime minister join the festivities to affirm that the country’s unity and strength lay in its diversity.
The four weeks leading up to Nowruz are filled with celebrations and rituals.
It is a moment of togetherness and family. Cobwebs are swept away and houses are given a thorough spring cleaning. New clothes are bought or sewn. Traditional dishes are cooked up in the kitchen, neighbors and relatives visit and children wait impatiently for presents and sweets.
For Yetar, it is a timeless joy – a holiday that still brings her happiness.

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