Azerbaijan celebrates Water Tuesday
The very first hint of spring should be in the air today as Azerbaijan marks Water Tuesday, the first of four Tuesdays in the run-up to Novruz.
The first day of the ancient holiday of Novruz falls on the spring equinox, 20 or 21 March, the day when the hours of daylight approximately equal those of darkness.
The holiday heralds the arrival of spring and marks the start of a new year.
The four Tuesdays before Novruz are named after the four elements: water, fire, earth and wind. According to legend, God created man from earth and water, gave him warmth and ordered the wind to wake him up. These Tuesdays are, therefore, considered sacred.
Each Chershenbe (Tuesday) has its own traditions. The first is Su chershenbesi or Water Tuesday. On this day, girls go to the river or a spring to collect water, singing as they go. A drinking bowl with pure water is then placed on a tray or khoncha.
There are many beliefs and traditions connected with water and Water Tuesday. For example: if water is spilt onto a table cloth, it means something good will happen. Another saying is that whoever pollutes water will not have their body washed after death.
On all four Tuesdays and on the eve of Novruz it's traditional to light bonfires and jump over them. The fires are purifying and take away all your troubles before the start of the new year.
Scholars debate the origins of Novruz. It is often linked with the oldest of the monotheist religions, Zorastrianism, whose scripture, the Avesta, refers to the name Novruz. The Zoroastrian Novruz was a joyful celebration of the arrival of light and warmth after the cold dark winter.
Another theory is that Novruz goes back to ancient Mesopotamia. In Babylon New Year was celebrated on the 21st of the month of Nisan (March-April) and the holiday lasted 12 days. In Persian, Nowruz means "new day" and in Turkic countries the spring holiday used to be called Turan. The holiday is called Tura to this day by the Chuvash people in the Russian Federation.