Nowruz, which comes on Friday this year, is the first day of the new year in Afghanistan and Afghan people have many special activities for this holiday.
About two weeks before Nowruz, the women start cleaning, washing, and shopping. They clean their houses, paint and wash all the rugs. But cleaning can also have different meanings, like washing away all the sorrows and sadness of the past year, changing the house environment for the better, and removing all hatred and irritation that may exist among relatives or friends.
The next step is shopping for the house and new clothes for the children and for different foods to welcome guests. Men are busy with responsibilities such as gardening, painting, and sometimes preparing for a family trip to the countryside.
Most families prepare special foods for Nowruz evening. This meal was always important in my home. My mother prepared white rice, fried chicken, spinach, red apples, yogurt, and honey for our food table.
Each dish has a special meaning. White rice means blessing, chicken means happiness, spinach means greenery, and honey means be sweet with your family members. Red apple means joy, yogurt means the coming out of all the warm natural things that we eat during the winter, and candles are for light and happiness.
In our family we also make Haft Mewa, which means Seven Dry Fruits. We mix fruits such as dark raisins, dried apricots, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, senjid—the dried fruit of the Oleaster tree—and green raisins with a pinch of cardamom, sugar, and cold water. Making Haft Mewa takes a bit of time and effort, but we enjoy making it together and talking and laughing while we shell the nuts.
Finally, on Nowruz day, we welcome our relatives to our house by serving them the Haft Mewa. On this day many people take a picnic to a green area to take deep breaths and forget all the bad things of the past year. Before announcing the New Year, people pray and ask for peace and security for our country.
Photo of Haft Mewa by Azhand Kabeer.