Besides the fact that the past month has been filled with traditional Tajik holidays, the Tajik people are celebrating the availability of electricity, water and the existence of humane temperatures and sunshine. In four weeks the city has transformed from totally depressed, grey and dead to colorful and lively. People have been out working in the gardens, both public and private, planting trees and flowers. National flags have been hung everywhere, the streets newly painted, and everyone is participating in what I think of as the national sport: "guliat" or walking and strolling around in the afternoon and evening for no reason other than to enjoy the air. It's a nice time to be in Khujand, as the city wakes up, and the Tajik people seem to have a new energy after the hardship of the winter.
The first holiday was Army Day on February 23rd. It is a day to thank all soldiers in history who fight for Tajikistan and has morphed into a sort of "Men's Day."
The second holiday was Women's Day on March 8th, a holiday founded in the early 1900's in the Soviet Union celebrating women's freedom from hijabs. It has now spread all across the world and is a day recognizing women's freedom, franchisement and social equality. In Khujand it was a day for giving women "S praznikom" or congratulations, as well as flowers, gifts and cards. Among the more religious group, the holiday is detested as it is a sin to celebrate women living without hijabs.
The last holiday is Navruz, on March 21st celebrating the coming of spring. In Tajiki Navruz literally means "New Day" and the 21st is also a type of new year. This year, the President came to Khujand and all people were walking in the streets and the parks or riding boats on the river, eating ice cream and watching street performers. The women wear national Atlas cloth dresses with new spring colors and friends and families get together to make sumanak --- a sweet paste made from wheat. (It is prepared over a fire for 24 hours straight, stirred in a large pot while those who stir think about their wishes and dreams for the future. There is also music and dancing all night long and celebration when the sumanak is finished cooking.) I spent Navrus walking with friends, eating sunflower seeds and riding the (really slow) ferris wheel-- which was an experience since everyone wants to ride and Tajiks do not at all know how to form lines so one just has to push and shove to get one's turn. At night I went dancing with friends and prepared sumanak the following day.
The liveliness of the city has continued even as the holiday winds down and there is a more vivid feeling of happiness everyday. The Tajik people, always peaceful and hopeful, are really looking to a brighter future.