The Nowruz Holiday celebrates the Iranian and Persian New Year, typically on March twenty-first of the Gregorian calendar. A similar holiday exists in Uzbek culture called the Navruz, which marks the first day of spring in Uzbekistan. The name translates to “new day” and is frequently heard of and celebrated in all 5 "Stans" of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and of course, Uzbekistan.
I had never ever imagined that such a unique holiday is celebrated in the U.S. In March 2023, my family and I---along with some of our friends with Central Asian roots---walked into the Seattle community college. Instantly, our mouths opened in awe at the representation of Uzbek culture. Even the entrance was decorated with Central Asian carpets and wardrobes!
“It felt so exotic…like we flew 7,000 miles to my homeland,” My mom squealed with delight.
We took a seat at one of the fifty-some circular tables, my stomach grumbling at the sight of appetizers that I had seen nearly a year ago in actual Uzbekistan:
Meat and potato-stuffed samsa (fried dough), Iranian lepeshka (flatbread), sugary Uzbek baklava (layered pastry)…and rich Uzbek plov!
Shoveling bits of everything, I lifted my head to a beaming crowd of Central Asians indulging in their cuisine.
A rich aroma unexpectedly greeted us, sending everyone flying out of their seats and rushing outdoors to the other side of the hall. I gasped at the incredible sight: buckets and buckets of rice fried in this gigantic, heavy-looking black pot—a Kazan!
This steaming, delicious plov (fried rice with meat and vegetables) was simply the icing on the cake, with each spoonful of these rice kernels sending bursts of understanding of the importance of Central Asian culture—let alone Uzbek.
The cherry on top? Multicultural performances! From Tatar to Uzbek genres, we clapped to the rhythm of Iranian songs, sang to the strumming of Kazakh instruments, and danced alongside Eurasian cultural dancers. The crowd went crazy with the beats of fun, celebratory music.
“Enjoy it before it’s gone,” Mom whispered to me, before joining the contagious energy on the dancing platform.