Uzbekistan — Festivals and Events
There are a number of festivals and events in Uzbekistan. The largest and liveliest ones feature some form of renewal, such as the New Year, curiously celebrated here by the largely Muslim population with a Christmas tree and a Santa. Each locality naturally has its own festivals, too. One worth seeing is the Boysun Spring Festival in Boysum, deemed by UNESCO to be a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Another New Year celebration held all across Uzbekistan is the Navruz (also Navroz, Nowruz, and many other variations). The word ‘navruz’ means ‘new day’ in Iranian, so naturally Navruz is Iranian New Year. Held every March 21, Navruz is an auspicious event for many Uzbeks because it is at this time of year they pin hopes of revival and renewal. All over the country, families and local communities prepare sumptuous feasts for all to enjoy.
Many local or provincial celebrations take place in various parts of Uzbekistan during spring. The biggest and perhaps the most culturally significant event is the Boysun Bahori, or the Boysun Spring Festival. Held in mountainous Boysun in Surkhandarya Province, this festival dates back to pre-Islam times and features costumes, songs, dance performances, storytelling, and other local traditions which have withstood the test of time. This event is so steeped in the region’s history and culture that UNESCO has named the Boysun cultural space as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Shark Taronalari is Uzbekistan’s international world music festival. First held in 1997 in Samarkand, the festival has attracted a growing number of performers and participants through the years. It usually takes place every summer. Folk singers who practice traditional musical genres such as uran khai (throat singing) and makom (sacred classical, melodic Uzbek music) come to the festival to perform.
Independence Day, held every September 1, is the biggest national holiday as the entire country remembers the day when it gained its independence and sovereignty after a long era of Soviet occupation. Feasts and shows are held in many cities and towns, but it is in Alisher Navoiy National Park in Tashkent where the main event takes place. From this park, the president addresses the nation, after which performances from the country’s singers and actors take place, along with a large fireworks display.
Uzbeks have a particularly curious New Year festival called the Yillar. Traditions normally carried out during Christmas in other countries take place in Uzbekistan during the New Year. These traditions include putting up what is essentially a Christmas tree with lots of decorations. Uzbeks also exchange gifts during this time and at some feasts, a man in a Santa costume joins in the merriment.
Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr
As with any Islamic country, Uzbeks also observe Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, abstinence, and prayer. It culminates in a festival called Eid ul-Fitr, which sees families unite in large celebratory feasts. As these festivals follow the lunar calendar, dates for Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr change every year.