I come from Azerbaijan, an ancient nation on the fiery coasts of the Caspian Sea. The sea coast is literally fiery, boasting some serious crude oil and gas reserves, with the flames naturally bursting from under the ground in certain places. It is for this reason that Azerbaijan was once a center of Zoroastrianism, and the Zoroastrian legacy lives with us to this day through the spring holiday Novruz, or “New Year” in Persian, celebrated on the spring equinox.
While the nation is what you would describe as secular Muslim, this pre-Muslim holiday is still the highest holiday in the calendar, and is the equivalent of the Christian Easter in celebrating Nature’s rebirth.
Azerbaijanis celebrate it by decorating their homes with the platters of sprouted wheat seed (basically pet grass) and a luscious feast featuring some of the nations’ favorite staples – meaty saffron pilafs and delicious middle-Eastern-style sweets, making it a bit of a Mardi Gras as well.
Here is a list of posts I wrote about Azerbaijan, Novruz, and a couple of traditional dishes that accompany it:
Novruz Bayraminiz Mubarek! – Happy Spring!
Photo above by Seymur Seyidbeyli, used here by permission.