Novruz (700th Post)
Spring is in the air. In this country, that means a 9-day vacation, jumping over fire, and little kids leaving their touques on your doorstep in the hope that you will fill them with sweets.
While you all sit there stewing in your inherent jealousy of my 9 days off, let me tell you a little bit about the holiday.
Its roots lie a long, long time ago (back in the BC period). People used it as a way to celebrate the renewal of life that this time of year represents. And instead of worshipping a god or other deity(ies), people worshipped the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. Since Azerbaijan is the self-proclaimed "Land of Fire," that element plays a big role in celebrations.
On the Tuesday before the 21st of March (and the three preceeding Tuesdays as well), fires are lit on almost every street. People line up awaiting their turn to take the leap of faith. Just prior, you must utter a few sentences, purportedly releasing all of the bad spirits from your soul. You literally ask, "Fire, burn away all the bad spirits."
Another cool tradition is the "trick or treat" variation. You'll be sitting at home and all of a sudden the doorbell rings. You open the door and see a touque sitting on your doormat. Your first thought is, "Cool, a free touque (a pretty cool gift for a Canadian)." In fact, you're supposed to take the touque, fill it with sweets, nuts, or fruit and leave it back on the doormat. After you close the door, the kid will reappear, take the touque, and run away gleefully.
Some other smaller traditions include a candle race where you light enough candles for the number of people in the room. Each person then makes a wish. If their candle burns out first, their wish will come true faster. There is also an egg cracking game similar to the wishbone breaking. Two people each have an egg in their hand. You then try to break the other person;s egg by hitting the top. Then the other person tries to break your egg by hitting the other end.
Happy Novruz, everyone!