Kazan Federal University

Violetta Garashchenko: “This is how we celebrate New Year in Kazakhstan”

25 December 2022

Kazakhstan traditionally celebrates New Year twice – the traditional calendar New Year on 1 January and Nawruz, a traditional Turkic holiday of spring equinox.

Violetta Garashchenko, a psychology student who arrived to study at KFU from Kazakhstan, speaks about New Year customs, “Previously, the Kazakhs were a nomadic people, therefore, before Nawruz, every resident of Kazakhstan puts his household in order, does a general cleaning of the house. In the New Year, it is imperative to dress up in new clothes so that the coming year will be favorable. Throughout the holiday, you need to visit seven families with wishes of happiness and prosperity, so that everything is fine with people, so that there are much livestock and harvest. This again continues the tradition of the nomadic lifestyle.”

“We prepare traditional dishes. The main dish on the festive table is “qozhe”, a traditional spring festival dish, which consists of seven ingredients: water, meat, salt, butter, flour, cereals and milk. They symbolize: happiness, good luck, wisdom, wealth, rapid growth and patronage of the sky. This qozhe resembles a drink with ingredients that you can also eat. There is a belief that if you taste qozhe in seven different houses, then a person will have a very successful year. Therefore, we go to visit each other so that everyone is happy. On the festive table, there must be Kazakh meat, beshbarmak, baursak, and a fermented milk drink: koumiss, ayran or kefir.

“On pre-holiday and holidays in Kazakhstan, entertainment events are held – competitions, wrestling, archery, horse racing. It can be both in the city and outside it. Special sites are being prepared, which are decorated accordingly. Both the youth and the older generation actively participate in such games. Folk songs, folk dances are performed, poets-improvisers organize competitions on the dombra.

“For the New Year and Nawruz, we usually give gifts that can be useful in everyday life. But most often, gold jewelry is a kind of symbol of well-being. In Kazakh families, women are given traditional jewelry, and men – national clothes.

“On December 31, we first listen to the address of the President of Kazakhstan, an hour later we listen to the congratulations of the governor and two hours later we listen to the New Year’s address of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is how we are congratulated three times.

“My most vivid memory of celebrating the New Year outside my family is when I came to study at KFU. It was in a dormitory: together with friends and neighbors, we sat, talked, listened to the president’s address and had a loud celebration – for which we were later scolded. We exchanged gifts and went outside to watch the fireworks and take a walk. Snow began to fall in large flakes and the world around was fabulously transformed. This is how my first New Year outside the family went.”

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