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Nowruz International Celebrates Hope and Renewal Across Borders

Nowruz is an international celebration of spirit of hope and renewal for the peoples from the steppes of North Western China, through the mountain ranges of Iran, the Caucasus and Mesopotamia, to the urban centers of India, the valleys of the Balkans and for the worldwide diaspora.

The vernal equinox on March 20 or 21 is arguably the most beloved holiday of Persians, Kurds, Afghans, Azerbaijanis, Tajiks and many other nationalities or religious groupings of Central Asia, foremost among them the Zoroastrians. The word Nowruz, which as a result of geographical or historical variation is pronounced and spelled in all possible ways including Navroze, Newroz, Norouz, Nevrooz, Nevruz Navruz, Nawruz, Nauryz, Navrous, etc., literally means "New Day". It is the New Year's holiday of ancient, pre-Islamic tradition. Several dozen millions of people honor and celebrate Nowruz wherever they may have moved in today's world, including America, Africa, Europe or Australia.

The Nowruz International Book Project will bring together master photographers and cineasts, reporters and essayists from the different Nowruz area cultures, to find common connections between their ethnic communities in various countries and celebrants, readers and researchers across the world. In addition, an accompanying website will be launched to describe Nowruz celebrations and their symbolism, and to study the differences and commonalities across borders. It will contribute to the preservation of a systematic record of this ancient tradition, which today's sweeping social changes are altering and possibly eradicating.

Celebrations in all these cultures include gatherings, sometimes very large, with music and dance; sometimes also exhibitions and plays. They are centered on or around the Vernal Equinox, March 21st. The Nowruz season generally starts four weeks prior to the actual holiday. These four weeks –to be more precise, four Tuesdays– are associated with the four elements, water, fire, earth, and air. Trees are pruned, houses are cleaned, and even house interiors renovated on the occasion of Nowruz. Minstrels sing in the streets to announce the festivities. On the Wednesday eve before Nowruz day, bonfires are lit, to be jumped over by the youth; children visit neighbors to collect coins and treats. People continue to enjoy the spirit of Nowruz. The sixth day of the festivities is, in the old tradition that still survives in the Zoroastrian religion, Zarathustra's birthday. On the 13th day of the new year, called "Sizdah Bedar", parks are filled with families spending the day outdoors, which is supposed to bring luck.

Nowruz has also acquired a special meaning for victims of discrimination: for Kurds, for example, and more particularly in Turkey, the Newroz celebration expresses open defiance of a centuries-old denial of cultural and national identity. The huge public celebrations often take place in confrontational climate, and the intervention of government forces has sometimes led to violence.

Through creative exploration and sharing of the traditions, we are seeking to create a common link, a connecting thread of peace uniting these communities, in fact a connecting thread for all humanity. In times of major disunion between various nationalities, countries and cultures the need for remembering common origins and values is particularly pressing. The world is crying out for a return of reasonable perspective in individuals and societies. We can hope that a creative reminder of a shared culture will contribute a new model of understanding, through the documentation of Nowruz. The Nowruz International Book Project will give the general public an artistic connection with different peoples and societies and an educational window on other cultures. It will help new interchange among the cultures directly involved.

Nowruz International Project is produced fiscally and under the legal responsibility of the GOLA Culture Arts and Ecology NGO, based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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