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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Celebrate the Spring Equinox

With the spring equinox falling on March 21, it's time for Navruz.

The most important event of the year for Zoroastrians, this holiday marking the vernal equinox and the onset of spring has remained a traditional celebration in lands that were historically controlled or influenced by Persians. The Soviet government repressed the festivities after 1928, but the holiday was carried on by many families in private. In the late 1980s, Navruz was again recognized officially in several countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. A festival several days long, it symbolizes renewal of nature and marks the beginning of a new year.

In Azerbaijan, families traditionally organize bonfires in the week preceding March 21, spring clean their homes and prepare a feast, including plov, a kind of cookie called sheker-churek, baklava, and various dishes containing eggs to symbolize new life. A proverb states: "He who is not at home for Navruz will live a vagabond life for seven years." This year, people in Azerbaijan officially have six days to celebrate.

In Kazakhstan, Navruz is the symbolic New Year, and is referred to as "Ulystin uly kuni" or "the great day of the nation." Horse races, hand-to-hand combat and other friendly competitions such as aytis, a contest between improvising folk poets, are held. Special dishes include nauriz kozhe, a yogurt soup.

In Uzbekistan, neighborhoods organize annual cleanups, plow land and lime-wash orchard trees. The ­traditional delicacy is sumalyak, a kind of cream of wheat containing sprouted grains and made in a giant pot into which the cooks also add whole walnuts and small pebbles to help bring luck in the coming year. This dish is also prepared in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

For Tatars, Navruz is a day to visit the elders and receive their blessing. Traditionally, younger people also visited neighborhood families, well-wishing them and praising their generosity, receiving sweets and little gifts in return.

Tajiks serve the table with seven foods that start with the letter "s": greens, grape vinegar, garlic, apples, the spices rue and dzhigda, and sumanak, the Tajik sumalyak.

Unfortunately, Moscow's larger Navruz events are not open to the public. As a representative of the Moscow House of Nationalities said, if you want to attend, make friends with heads of diaspora organizations and beg to be invited next year.

March 21: The Moscow House of Nationalities is organizing an evening with music, dances and ethnic dishes from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and other countries. Entrance is by invitation only.

March 24: Annual multinational festival in the All-Russia Exhibition Center to honor Navruz. Food, music and even a Kazakh yurt. Entrance is by invitation only.

March 26: Iranian traditional acoustic band Rudaki plays at the Central House of Artists, 7 p.m.