Celebrating Nawroz as a Dynamic Tradition

By: Younus NEgah

On the eve of Nawroz, we like to partake in activities such as reciting poems, telling stories, and having fun. This provides us with a sense of closeness to our loved ones, whom we have been separated from for a year. In such a situation, our minds are put aside and our emotions speak from every cell of our being. Imagine a soldier who fled out of fear of the Taliban‘s revenge last year and spent months on the outskirts of Mashhad or Peshawar doing hard labor and living in fear of the police. If his wife were to join him, exhausted and suffering but still smiling and hopeful, how would he feel? The worker left his taxi at the Kabul Airport in August 2021, fearful of the Taliban and malnourished. He then spent months in the Qatar camps, far away from his family and alone, in a place where he could not understand the language, was unfamiliar with the food, and was not used to the weather. How would he feel tomorrow when he is reunited with his parents, siblings, wife, and children? He may become emotional, but he will not take a leave of absence from the factory he recently joined in order to sing for his loved ones. Given his financial situation, he likely prefers to spend more time and prepare more necessities for his recently arrived family. The same concern is present in our society. Even during Nawroz and spring festivals, we must consider our collective destiny, understand our shared traditions and cultural commonalities, and search for solutions. Therefore, instead of sharing beautiful poems and literary praises, even though I have a strong desire to hear songs and discuss flowers, I will write about our relationship with Nawroz and its role in society.

Nawroz is a reminder of a time when humans had a much closer relationship with nature. People had not yet been blinded by the pride of victory over nature, and the roar of cars and smoke of factories had not yet taken away the breath of the environment. People were fearful of nature‘s anger, yet excited by its companionship, and took account of the cold and heat to satisfy it. They would jump on top of fire, boil Samanu, clean, grow plants, sing songs, go to the hills and meadows, and spread the Haft Mewa table, laying the components of the grand system of ceremonies, beliefs, and behaviors that had been inherited from times of coexistence with the environment. This visionary behavior with water, soil, air, and plants formed the core of that system, and signs of this behavior could be seen in the villages where people spent their childhood. Fire was valued and water was consumed carefully, and it was said that defecating near or in water was sinful. The scenes of the Kabul river were not like this in the past.

They held the soil in high regard, viewing it as a purifier. Insects and birds were not seen as superfluous creatures and they did not intentionally kill or harm them unless they were deemed to be a threat. Even if it was a snake, women would attempt to drive it out of the house using methods such as pouring milk, rather than any other more harmful techniques. Uprooting plants and trees was frowned upon, and burning bushes and green branches was considered a crime. It was rare for someone to cut down a lush domestic or mountain tree, as if they did, they would be condemned and seen as ignorant and criminal. The elders paid close attention to the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, and people viewed themselves not as the cause of the existence of the world and the ruler of nature, but as a part of it. Work was the essence of men and women, and everyone worked with the call of roosters and the blowing of lights. No one was ashamed of their rough hand skin and they kissed the bread. The society was the owner of longstanding and welltested traditions that did not have any religious, ethnic, racial, or local address, and like life itself, it flowed by people without any propaganda or justification.

Today, those who live in concrete dwellings with carpets and air conditioning, removed from dirt, water, wind, and the sweat of labor, have been raised in a culture of materialism. They count their money and use iPhones, and have taken over the offices built for the modern government, driving cars and tanks, armed with modern rockets and machines. Now, they go to the Nawroz war wearing the mask of religion and tradition, though they are not the defenders of popular traditions, but rather the products of modernity. They are against anything that connects society to its past, gives meaning to the present, and prepares for the future. They are attempting to strip society of its national values, popular traditions, cultural assets, ancient works, and modern institutions and skills necessary for a dignified life, turning people into rootless herds, upside down and obedient. The burqa tradition, staying at home, banning entertainment, remaining silent in the face of oppression, blindly obeying, seeking martyrdom, and opposing are not sources of joy.

Traditional discipline is essential for sustaining and strengthening the unity of society. At times, this discipline needs to be discarded, at times it needs to be flexible, and at times it becomes too outdated and falls apart. Thus, like any other social occurrence, tradition is sustained by dynamism and rejuvenation, and we have such traditions. Nawroz is one of the most enduring and dynamic traditions. We can learn a great deal from Nawroz, including the fact that, like nature, people should refresh themselves every year, update themselves, and start anew, without becoming estranged from themselves and disregarding the ties that link their past, present, and future.

In the democratic Afghanistan of tomorrow, we hope to simultaneously support education and research, invest in the development of industries and services, and equip society with tools for competition and services. Furthermore, attention should be drawn to dynamic traditions and cultures. Reestablishing friendship with water, familiarity with fire, and respect for the soil, wildlife, and plants should be prioritized. Additionally, men and women should be liberated from the bonds created by the byproducts of modernity. General efforts should be made for material and spiritual reconstruction so that draining sewage and filling stomachs are no longer the problems of our society. The shortage of water and electricity, smoke and dirt should not cause death, and an environment with deadend alleys and roads without flowers and plants should not make life unbearable.