Celebrating New Year and foods from the Silk Road
As the daffodils begin to bloom and the blossoms burst out across trees in the UK, we welcome meteorological spring in the west. However many countries across the world are starting their preparations for Nowrouz. The eastern New Year and the start of spring. Celebrating new year and foods from the silk road.
Nowrouz is a rite dating back to at least 6th century BC. It is celebrated in many countries including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to name a few.
The United Nations estimates that over 300 million people, of different religions and cultures, around world celebrate Nowrouz.
Although the traditions and customs that accompany Nowrouz vary from country to country, there are many unifying features. Commonly the festival begins with purification, either through fire or water. In Iran and Afghanistan people leap over fires on the last Tuesday eve of the year. In Kazakhstan every vessel in the house is filled with water in the hope that it will bring abundance and purity. And in Uzbekistan houses are cleaned from top to bottom to wash away the ills of the past year.
The old Roman Calendar
We often associate Nowrouz and New Year in March with Eastern countries. However did you know that the Romans followed the same calendar? In ancient Rome the start of the year was in March. In 709 Julius Caesar (with the influence of the Catholic church) introduced a new calendar. This calendar started in January and hence the European calendar was changed. However remnants of the old calendar remain. If you start in March, September our 9th month is in fact septem, seventh month. October – octigenti, eight month (now 10th month) and November, novem, ninth month (now 11th month) and so on.
The Nowrouz table – a symbol of Spring
One widespread tradition of new year is the preparation of the Nowrouz table. Although the Nowrouz tables varies slightly across countries, the essence of the table is the same. The table is prepared with great care with water, candles and dishes of green sprouts symbolising spring. Mirror, eggs (symbolising new life), spices and flowers are added. Finally the table is adorned with sweet treats and dried fruits and nuts for prosperity and abundance. Celebrating New Year and foods from the silk road.
Let the feasting start
Feasting plays a central role in the new year celebrations. Starting with a fruit and nut mix consumed in almost every eastern country. During the hard winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables were not available, dried fruits and nuts were seen as a luxury and cherished. This luxurious mixture of pistachios, almonds, chickpeas, raisins and dried fruits is eaten in abundance to start the celebrations. Fish, rice and green herbs also play a central role, always bringing in the colour green and spring.
Dried fruits and nuts – a staple new year tradition
Dried fruits and are eaten throughout the festivities and in some countries are presented as gifts when visiting friends and family. Families often mix their own special mix, adding in more luxurious fruits such as dried white mulberries, baby yellow figs and speciality green raisins.
Nowadays mixes are more modern and nuts such as cashews and pecans and even dried kiwis can be found in some modern mixes. A beautiful way of mixing east and west.
At Medfood we sell an amazing range of dried fruits and nuts, including Organic white mulberries and baby yellow figs. We also roast and flavour our nuts inhouse. So you know you will always receive the freshest and the best quality products from us.
A sweet celebration
Homemade sweet treats are popular around new year. Homemade delicacies are placed with pride on tables during the festivities. Heading west along the silk road and across Syria, Lebanon and Turkey a familiar delicacy is presented. Boxes of rose scented Turkish delight are gifted and eaten with glasses of tea or small cups of coffee. Nowadays modern flavours are available to treat our taste buds. These include cherry, apple, mint and pomegranate and delicate nuts such as pistachios are added for even more luxury.
At Medfood we have a tantalising array of Turkish delight on offer. Our range includes the classics such as rose and lemon as well as many new flavours. Browse our site to find out more about our range and flavours.
Taking comfort in old traditions
Annual traditions to welcome the spring have been passed on from generation to generation throughout the last millennium. Nowrouz provides an opportunity to enjoy ancient cultural customs and traditional songs, music, dancing, foods and story-telling. It also promotes peace and solidarity within towns and communities and strengthens deep-rooted bonds of friendship and exchange.
In recognition of the importance of this ancient rite, Noworuz was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. Moreover, in 2010, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March International Nowrouz Day.
We would like to extend our warm wishes for a happy and peaceful Nowrouz to everyone celebrating.
UNESCO – Silk roads programme
United Nations – Nowrouz, what is it and who celebrates it?
Wikipedia – Chaharshanbe Suri
The Times – Persian New Year foods