Newroz in Nashville

2016-03-21 Newroz 1

The New Year’s day is today. Newroz is back.

An ancient Kurdish festival, with joy and verdure.

For many years, the flower of our hopes was downtrodden

The fresh rose of spring was the blood of the youth

It was that red colour on the high horizon of Kurd

Which was carrying the happy tidings of dawn to remote and near nations

It was Newroz which imbued the hearts with such a fire

That made the youth receive death with devoted love

Hooray! The sun is shining from the high mountains of homeland

It is the blood of our martyrs which the horizon reflects

It has never happened in the history of any nation

To have the breasts of girls as shields against bullets

Nay. It is not worth crying and mourning for the martyrs of homeland

They die not. They live on in the heart of the nation.

(Piremerd, Kurdish Poet)

Newroz in Nashville

by Eva Abdullah

Literally translated “New Day,” Newroz is the celebration of the Kurdish New Year.

For the Kurds of Nashville, this holiday carries special importance. As refugees, celebrating Newroz helps them keep Kurdish traditions alive in another country and pass on their culture and history to the Kurds growing up outside of Kurdistan. They also use the day to honor the Peshmerge, the Kurdish soldiers, who are fighting back home to defend their homeland, both those who have died in the cause and those who are still fighting.

Newroz shares its roots with the Persian holiday of the same name; however, Kurds have their own unique take on the holiday. For them, it is day of celebrating the Kurdish struggle and triumph against others who would oppress them. Legend has it that a Kurdish blacksmith named Kawa led the revolt against an evil tyrant named Zahak. He defeated this tyrant and freed his people. Afterward, fires were lit on the mountaintops to signify what had happened to all the people. To this day, every Newroz, fires are lit in the mountains to commemorate this.

Historically, there are records of Newroz being celebrated by Kurds as far back as the 16th century in one form or fashion. Over the years the celebration almost died out, but due to a rise in Kurdish Nationalism in the 1960’s, it was revived and has become a day to celebrate all things Kurdish.2016-03-21 Newroz 2Newroz is traditionally celebrated around the spring equinox, March 21st. People gather to have picnics in their communities, dancing and sharing poetry, and wearing colorful traditional clothing.

Since picnics are a traditional way of celebrating the Newroz holiday, there is a lot of food made to share. Traditional foods include iprax (cabbage and swiss chard rolls stuffed with rice and meat and veggies), kotulk halabe (rice dough stuffed with meat and veggies and then fried), turshik (wheat dumplings stuffed with meat and veggies and cooked in a tomato soup), brnj spi (white rice), avko sur/spi (white and red soups, with meat and beans), maghloubi (layered rice dish with layers of veggies and meat), briyani (rice dish with special spices and potatoes and slivered almonds and other veggies), zalata (Kurdish salad), and kebabs and grilled chicken and meat. Naan (Kurdish flat bread) is served with these dishes, along with greens and other veggies. Also sunflower seeds and pistachios and other nuts are eaten and black tea is served.2016-03-21 Newroz 4

For information on Nashville Newroz celebrations this year (which were postponed this weekend due to weather), visit the Tennessee Kurdish Community Council’s page. Find more of Eva’s writing about the Nashville Kurdish community on her blog.