My favorite holiday of the year is the New Year. I know that all the people in the world celebrate it, but New Year in Mazar-e-Sharif is different from any other city in Afghanistan. My city was built with the big blue mosque in the center and then the city grew around this mosque.
The Rawze-e-Sharif mosque and the wall around it are rectangular and in the center is the main mosque where people go to visit and pray at the grave of Imam Ali. Inside the mosque it is very colorful. The ceiling is a soft orange color. There are also two smaller mosques, one is named Chahar Bagh, which means “four gardens.” People sit and enjoy Chahar Bagh, especially in the hot days of summer when passing through the city from one end to another. I pass it every day on my way to college.
During our New Year’s week—the spring equinox—we have some very old traditional programs for Mazar people. The religious tradition involves Janda, a heavy and long piece of wood decorated with many holy items like scarves and other clothes in green. Our sheikhs use green scarves during prayer. Green signifies being a good human.
If the sheikhs can raise the Janda well, it means we will have a good year, and if not, then we will not. Janda stands upright for forty days and then it is taken down until the following year. It takes four or five sheikhs to raise the Janda.
On New Year’s Day, Mazar is full of people from other cities and countries who come to be in the New Year’s spirit at the precise time of the New Year. Everyone goes to the blue mosque to watch the raising of the Janda, and then they celebrate together. It is always very interesting because of the crowds. Many men climb the trees to see better when the sheikhs raise the Janda.
After the Janda celebration we go back home. The holiday lasts one week. We wake up very early on the New Year days and the women do the housework. Men never do house work. If a man did something at home like cooking it would be a big surprise, but I hope one day our men will help at home. We decorate our home for the Eid and we wear new dresses and wait for guests and go to visit relatives and friends.
But New Year is not my favorite only because of Janda and the celebrations and visits with relatives and friends. New Year’s means something bigger for me. On either the last night of New Year, or the night before the New Year, I go to my room early. I turn off the lamp and light a candle. I sit and talk to myself and I write.
I write down how “I do that, I do this, I don’t do that, I don’t do this.” And I write the reasons. I judge myself. I find out where I stand, what were my mistakes, where I was weak, and where I was strong in the year past. For example, last March I started watching English movies every night for one hour, but after two months I stopped. I know it was a good way to improve my English and I must to do it again in the New Year.
Finally, I make a new plan for the New Year and I write it down. The candle has the last drop to burn. I blow it out, close my eyes, and fall into a calm sleep. Tomorrow I will be so happy, happy, and happy.
ISAF Public Affairs Photo
Sumaia — This is a beautiful description of the New Year celebration in Mazar-e-Sharif and your own personal New Year’s celebration as well. I enjoyed the descriptions of the mosque and the raising of the janda. I also loved imagining you, alone in your room writing away happily. You have inspired me to do something like that this New Year’s day. I will think about the past year and plan for the next. A great idea — thank you! Best wishes — and Happy New Year! Nancy
Dear Sumaia, I enjoyed reading your story of the New Year celebration. Mazar-e-Sharif looks so beautiful! From your description, I can picture myself there, and I can picture you there. What a lovely tradition you have lighting the candle and creating a warm glow to welcome the New Year. Thank you for sharing these words. –Pat
Welcome Sumaia! Your essay about how you prepare for the new year is an inspiring way to start 2015.
Happy New Year , Susan