Afghanistan Prepared by: MY Dec 07 2010
March 21–Afghan New Year also farmer’s day (national holiday)
stIn Afghanistan the “Nouroz” or New Year is the first day of spring and is a holiday. Nouroz is celebrated in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kurdistan, the Indian Sub Continent and many other countries in the world. Although each country celebrates it a little differently, it always centers around a celebration of spring and the beginning of a new year. March 21in Afghanistan marks the start of year 1390, a date based on Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina in 622 BC.
stThe first day of Now Roze or the Afghan calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring. An equinox occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator; day and night are of nearly equal length at all latitude. The March equinox generally occurs around March 21, give or take a couple of days. Now Roze means new day in Dari. In Afghanistan the planning for Now Roze starts two weeks before the actual date.
There are many preparations that go into celebrating the New Year and you guessed it, food is the most important part of the festivities.
It also signals the start of the school year. In Afghanistan children go to school from March to November, Saturday to Thursday (Note: About a week ago Afghan government announced that Thursdays will also be holiday but only in the capital Kabul not other provinces)
Afghan Now Roze Celebration:
There are many customs around Now Roze but here are the most common ones:
Preparation of a very special drink called Haft Mewa (seven fruits). Haft Mewa is essentially compote made from seven different dried fruits and nuts served in their own juices. Traditionally the seven ingredients are as follows: red raisins, black raisins, yellow raisins, senjid (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), pistachio, dried apricot, and dried apple. The recipe for this dish is very flexible and now many people use walnuts, almonds and other dried fruit to make this yummy dish.
This is a special sweet made from wheat germ which requires several weeks of preparation. The custom is for women to gather, essentially a “girls’ night in” and prepare the dish from late in the evening until daylight, singing special songs.
Mela e Gul e Surkh:
It means the Red Flower Festival referring to the red tulip. It’s mainly celebrated in Mazar i Sharif in Northern Afghanistan where many people travel to experience the gorgeous flowers.
Buzkashi:“Buzkashi” is an ancient game played in Afghanistan and dates back to the days of Ghengis Khan (called Chingiz Khan in Afghanistan). The Mongols who originally
played it on the steppe, lived and died in the saddle. It is played mostly in the north of Afghanistan in the provinces of Maimana, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kataghan. This game is played almost every year in New Year’s Day and some other national festivals.
People cook Sabzi Challaw (spinach and rice) on the eve of Now Roze to welcome spring and a prosperous crop. Also, bakeries make Kulcha e Now Rozie a special rice cookie very similar to our recipe for butter cookies but decorated with beautiful colors in honor of the holiday. People also make or buy Mahi (fried fish) and Jelabi (fried sugar dessert) mostly eaten at picnics.
Festivals and Picnics:
There are many festivals celebrating spring and the upcoming crop. People go on picnics to enjoy the greenery, flowers and time with family. Of course, kite flying, a national pastime in Afghanistan, is at the center of all these outings.
– April 27 – The Saur Revolution: (not holiday)
On April 27, 1978 the military-communist coup started. The coup started with military troops from the military base at Kabul International Airport starting to move towards the center of the city. It took only 24 hours to consolidate power in the capital. President Daoud and most of his family was executed in the presidential palace in Kabul the following day. The PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) seized power in a military coup in 1978 which is best known as the Saur Revolution. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. After the military coup, Taraki assumed the position as President of Afghanistan and Hafizullah Amin assuming the position as Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan.
– April 28 – (Holiday) Mujahideen Victory Day is a political holiday observed in Afghanistan, falling on the 28 April each year. It commemorates the day when the Afghan mujahideen overthrew the socialist government in Afghanistan in 1992 and took control of Kabul.
While much of Afghanistan celebrate Mujahideen day on April 28, some still see it as one of the darker days in the country’s history which led to years of war and devastation.
A coup by the Soviet-backed Communist Party on April 27, 1978, led to the collapse of the regime of Afghanistan’s first president, Muhammad Daud Khan.
Daud’s death paved the way for an invasion of Soviet troops, and the subsequent uprising of the Afghan people, which killed 1.5 million people and saw another five million flee into exile.
On April 28 1992, the Communist government in Kabul fell to the Mujahideen, ushering in an era of infighting which led to the deaths of 60,000 people in Kabul alone and the devastation of the capital’s infrastructure. Most Afghans calls both April 27 and 28 black days in Afghanistan’s history.
The two days were massive social changes which both had no benefit to the people of
Afghanistan and caused various problems, still facing people today.
When the Communists who called themselves the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan took power, people were optimistic that democracy would follow. But their dependency on a foreign country turned people against them. It was no different when the Mujahideen routed them from Kabul, Unfortunately the people
couldnt find peace when the Mujahideen took over, but they misused their power which led to devastation.” Mujahideen leaders describe April 28 as a proud day for the people of Afghanistan and say that the Mujahideen’s victory led to the collapse of what was then one of the world’s super powers, the Soviet Union. Some Afghans believe the Mujahideen were worse than the Communists. They say the occupation of the county by the Soviets
caused destruction in the country and led to massive immigration, but the Mujahedeen brought their own problems. There are some people that say the day the Communists took over was a dark day for Afghanistan and that the liberation by the Mujahideen was something to be proud of. Both days are lessons for Afghans to remember and learn.
May 24-Teachers’ Day: ( Not a holiday ).
The day is celebrated on 24th of May every year in Afghanistan. Students bring food, cookies, and a lot of gifts for their teachers on
this day to please their teachers. Special presentations and programs are also organized
on this day.
June 14: Mother’s Day: ( Not holiday).
June 25: Anti Narcotics Day ( Not holiday)
Feb 15: Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
Mawlid al Nabi: Mawlid means birthday of a holy figure and al-Nabi means prophet.
(Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday) ( Holiday)
Milad-un Nabi or Maulid (Mawlid) is the birthday celebration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH.) and is celebrated by Muslims as Eid-e Milad. Prophet Muhammad was born in Arabia in the city of Mecca on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, which was Monday the 20th day of April, 571 A.C. This falls on Tuesday 15 Feb 2011. This is also his death anniversary. The occasion is celebrated by remembering the favors bestowed on the ummah (community), the first is the revelation of the Holy Quran with its instructions, the second, the institution of an Everliving Guide who would advise the mu’mins (believers) according to the needs of the time. People offer special prayers in the mosques and remember the Prophet.
Aug 19: Afghan Independent Day: (Holiday)
Afghan Independence Day is celebrated in Afghanistan on 19 August to commemorate the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919. The treaty
granted independence from Britain; although Afghanistan was never officially a part of the British Empire. The British fought three wars with Afghanistan. The First Anglo-Afghan War 1839–1842 led to the massacre of the entire British invading force by Afghan forces in the city Jalalabad. But the new British forces reinvaded shortly, defeated the Afghan forces, rescued the POWs and successfully withdrew. The Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878– 80 led to the British victory over the Afghan army in Kandahar, bringing the Afghan rebellion to an
end. The war left the British in control of the territories ceded by Yaqub Khan and ensuring British control of Afghanistan’s foreign policy in exchange for protection and a subsidy. The Third Anglo-Afghan War 1919 led the British to achieve the reaffirmation of Durand Line and give up on their imperialist ambition to conquer Afghanistan and Afghanistan declared its independence. The event is recognized throughout Afghanistan and also celebrates Afghan culture and national pride. It is celebrated every year.
September-November (Date variable according to Islamic calendar)
During the holy month of Ramadan Afghans don’t take food or drink during the day.
Sep 9: AFG warlord Ahmad Shah Masood was killed:
September 9 is observed as a national holiday in Afghanistan, known as Massoud Day. Ahmed Shah Massoud ,the warlord ,was born in Jangalak in the Panjshir Valley in 1953.
Massoud became the Defense Minister in 1992 under the government of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, a year that the Kabul city and rest of the country was engulfed in infightings in which thousands of innocent people were killed in Kabul and some other cities . Following the collapse of Rabbani’s government and the rise of the Taliban in 1996, Massoud returned to the role of an armed opposition leader, serving as the military
commander of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan also known previously as the Northern Alliance. It was on September 9, 2001, Massoud was assassinated in Takhar Province of Afghanistan by suspected al-Qaeda agents. In 2001, the Afghan Interim Government under President Hamid Karzai awarded Massoud the title of “Hero of the Afghan Nation” while most people consider him nothing but a warlord and a man whose hand was stained with blood of hundreds of innocent Afghans.
Eid e Fitr (End of Ramadan)
(Date variable according to Islamic calendar, 30 Aug 2011)
After a month of fasting (Ramadan), people start the day by wearing new clothes, and going to mosques for prayer.
Eid e Qurban
(Date variable according to Islamic calendar, 5 Nov 2011)
The day commemorates the Prophet Abraham’s devotion to God. He was willing to slay his son, Ismael, in sacri ﬁce. Ismael was never killed; instead, God provided a lamb for the sacriﬁce. Muslims sacriﬁce a lamb, and the meat is given out to the poor. This holiday is celebrated in the same fashion as Eid al-Fitr, people visit friends and family and gifts are exchanged.
Dec 6, 2011: 10th of Muharram :
The word ‘ashura’ means simply ‘tenth’ in Arabic and hence the name of the remembrance, literally translated, means ‘the tenth day’. The Asura
Festival, Afghanistan is celebrated on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar and marks the climax of the Remembrance of Muharram. Ashura in Afghanistan is memorialized by the Shi‘a as a day of remembrance for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad at the Battle of Karbala on 10 Muharram in the year 61 AH. According to the belief of the Sunni Muslims, Moses fasted on that day to express gratefulness to God for liberation of Israelites from Egypt. As said by Sunni Muslim tradition, Muhammad fasted on this day and asked other people to fast.
How Is Muharram Celebrated The Shia Muslims consider Muharram to be the period of mourning and remembering martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Husain. They start mourning from the 1st night of Muharram and continue for the next 2 months and 8 days. Nonetheless, the first ten days of Muharram have more significance. Shia Muslims put on black dresses on the first day of Muharram and attend majlis (assemblies) where the orators narrate incidents of the battle of Karbala, Hazrat Imam Husain and his people. The black color is regarded as the color of mourning. They even keep themselves away from music and joyous events, such as weddings, that are likely to distract them from the sorrowful remembrance of the event. The first ten days of the month mark the deadly battle of Karbala, where Hazrat Imam Husain, along with his family and supporters, was brutally massacred and beheaded by Yazid’s army. These ten days hold great historical significance for Muslims across the world. While the Shia Muslims commemorate this occasion by mourning, Sunni Muslims observe it on a more peaceful note.
On the 10th day, Shia Muslims take out large processions through the streets carrying banners and colorfully decorated (bamboo and paper replicas of the martyrs) embellished with gilt and mica. They even carry colorful replicas of the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Husain at Karbala.
Shia Muslims walk barefoot on the roads, while the drums are beaten in the background. They chant and weep loudly as an act of mourning for Husain, his family and his followers. To express their grief on the death of Hazrat Imam Husain, they beat their chest with hands, known as matam. Others flagellate their bodies with chains or whips, consisting of small knives and sharp
objects, thereby drawing out blood. Wrestlers and dancers even enact scenes that depict the battle of Karbala. While Shia Muslims consider Muharram as a sorrowful occasion, Sunni Muslims observe the occasion as a festival even though the main aspect behind the festival remains intact. They observe fasts and commemorate the occasion as a low affair. As stated by Prophet Muhammad, the best fasts after the fasts of Ramadan are those of
the month of Muharram. Though these fasts are not obligatory as those of Ramadan, one who fasts during Muharram out of his own will be awarded by Allah. These fasts are considered to be the most rewardable ones among the Nafl or voluntary fasts. The fasts can be observed for the first ten days of Muharram or on the 9th and 10th day of Muharram or on the 10th and 11th day of Muharram. The choice of fasting totally depends on an individual.
Feb 15: Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan (Not holiday)
The Soviet War in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan at their own request against the Mujahideen Resistance when on December 27, 1979, 700 Soviet troops dressed in Afghan uniforms, including KGB and GRU special force officers from the Alpha Group and Zenith Group, occupied major governmental, military and media buildings in Kabul, including their primary target—the Tajbeg Presidential Palace. The mujahideen found other support from a variety of sources including the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslim nations through the context of the Cold War.
The initial Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on December 24, 1979 under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989 under the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
May 1: Labor Day: (holiday)
March 8: International Day of Woman (not holiday)
Afghanis are very competitive and take their sports seriously. Winning is a question of personal and family honor.
literally translated means “goat grabbing” is the national sport of Afghanistan. Many historians believe that Buzkashi began with the Turkic-Mongol people, and it is indigenously shared by the people of Northern Afghanistan.
In Buzkashi, a headless carcass of calf is placed in the centre of a circle and surrounded by the players of two opposing teams. The project of the game, is to get control of the carcass. The competition is ﬁerce, and the winner of a match receives prizes that have been donated by a sponsor. In order for someone to become a champion or chapandaz, one must undergo a tremendous amount of dif ﬁcult training. In fact, the best chapandaz, are usually over the age of forty. Not only the players but also the horses undergo arduous training. There are two types of Buzkashi, Tudabarai and Qarajai. In Tudabarai, in order to score, the rider must obtain possession of the carcass and then carry it away from the starting circle in any direction. The rider must stay free and clear of the other riders.
In Qarajai, the task is much more complex. The player must carry the calf around a marker, and then return the carcass to the team’s designated scoring circle. To many Afghanis, Buzkashi is not just a game, it is a way of life; a way in which teamwork and communication are essential for being successful.
Other Sports Played In Afghanistan
• Kite Flying: Participant’s cover the strings of their kites with a mixture of powdered glass and ﬂour. Then they outmaneuver each other in order to cut the string of an opponent’s kite. They do this by rubbing the strings together: this sport is mostly played by children and young teenagers.
• Topay- Danda
(Similar to stick ball): A polished stick of about one and a half feet is used to throw a smaller stick of about three inches. The object is to hit the smaller stick at one of its pointed corners with the big stick, making it jump in the air. The player then hits it again before it falls down. The challenge is to hit the stick as far as possible. The player who hits it the furthest is the winner.
• Bicycle Racing
• Target Shooting
In war-torn Afghanistan, families do not have money to buy toys, and few are available. Children play simple games with basic toys made from natural objects, such as slingshots. Buzul-bazi is a game like marbles or dice, played with sheep’s knucklebones. Girls play a game very similar to hopscotch. Boys enjoy kite-fighting (gudi-paran jungi) with kites made from tissue paper stretched over bamboo sticks. The point of the game is to cross strings with another kite-flyer and saw your string back and forth against his to cut the string and set his kite loose. To make their strings sharper, boys “glass” them by soaking them in a mixture of ground glass and paste.
Adults love to sing and dance, and do so often. Afghanis do not dance with partners; instead, they either dance alone or in circles. Men spend time in teahouses listening to music, drinking tea, and talking. They also indulge in a more violent entertainment—animal-fighting, usually with cocks (roosters) or dogs. The two animals fight to the death, and men bet on the outcome.
RITES OF PASSAGE
Weddings are the most festive occasions in Afghanistan, with ceremonies traditionally spread over a three-day period. The groom’s family pays for the wedding, which involves much feasting and dancing. In the official ceremony (nikah-namah), the marriage contract is signed in front of witnesses. The mullah (local religious leader) reads from the Koran (the sacred text of Islam), and sugared almonds
and walnuts are tossed onto the bridegroom.
The birth of a first child is the occasion for a day-long celebration, which is most elaborate if the child is a boy.
Children are named on the third day after birth. Boys are usually circumcised at about the age of seven.
Most Afghanis only use their given (first) names in public. Within the privacy of the home, they call each other by nicknames. Afghanis are very physically expressive. They use exaggerated gestures and facial expressions to communicate. Physical affection is openly expressed between members of the same sex. However, the laws of Islam forbid members of the opposite sex who are not close relations to touch each other.
Afghani men greet friends and acquaintances by clasping both hands in a firm handshake, hugging, and kissing each other on the cheeks. They often walk together, arm in arm. Interpersonal relations among Afghanis are largely ruled by Pashtunwalli , a set of unwritten laws and codes. Pashtunwalli includes such concepts as milmastia, being a good and generous host; and nanawati, providing shelter to anyone who needs it.
Most marriages are arranged by the parents and relatives, often when children are still very young. Men generally marry between the ages of eighteen and twenty, and women between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. Marriage between cousins, especially paternal ones, is preferred.
Afghani life revolves around the family, including the extended family. Extended families often live together in the same household, or in separate households clustered together. Even large cities are made up of small “villages” of extended family units. The women of the family households form a single work group, and care for and discipline the children. The senior male member, usually the grandfather, controls all spending. The grandmother organizes all domestic chores. Women have a great deal of power in the home, but little authority in public. Islamic tradition requires that they be veiled and kept separate from men in public. Divorce is fairly simple in Islamic law. To divorce his wife, a man merely has to say “I divorce you” three times in front of witnesses. A woman has to appear before a judge with reasons for divorcing her husband. However, few Afghanis end their marriages. Children are cherished in Afghani society, especially boys. Girls are not mistreated, but their brothers’ needs always come first. Children are expected to grow up quickly and learn to take care of themselves.
The ordinary clothing of Afghani men is a rather baggy pair of trousers with a draw-string at the waist, and a loose, long-sleeved shirt reaching about to the knees. When it is cool, a vest is also worn. Brightly striped, quilted coats are worn in rural areas. Afghanis’ turbans were traditionally white but are now any color.
Women generally wear pleated trousers under a long dress, and cover their heads with a shawl. Some
urban women continue to wear the chadri ( burka), a traditional ankle-length cloth covering, which was officially banned in 1959. It is like a sack over the whole body, with a mesh insert over the eyes and nose.
In large cities, especially Kabul, Western-style clothing is becoming increasingly popular with both men and women.
Afghani cuisine has been influenced by the peoples who have occupied their country throughout history. The strongest influences are India and Iran. Staple foods are rice, a flatbread known as
naan, and dairy products. A variety of fruits and vegetables are also available. The main feature of a big meal is a rice pilau, which is rice cooked with meats or vegetables.
Bread is eaten at every meal. It often serves as a utensil for scooping up food, since Afghanis generally eat with their fingers. The typical beverage is tea, usually drunk without milk. Alcohol and pork are forbidden by Islam. In rural
Afghanistan, regular meals are not eaten between breakfast and supper, but people carry nuts and dried fruit to eat during the day for energy.
Western-style education has never been widely accepted in Afghanistan. Relatively few people are literate (can read and write). With the constant warfare, formal education has not always been available. Before the communist takeover in 1978, there were 3,404 schools with 83,500 teachers. Two decades later, there were only 350 schools left, with 2,000 teachers—and nearly 400,000 children. That means there are two hundred students per teacher. The educational system of Afghanistan consists of six years of primary school, and six years of lycee, or high school. When the University of Kabul was founded in 1946, there were separate programs for men and women. By 1960, its curriculum had
become coeducational (including men and women together).
CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
The main folk art is carpet-weaving. The weaving is done mostly by young girls and women. Patterns are passed down from generation to generation and are considered family secrets. For the finest work, it takes four weavers three months to finish a rug that measures six square meters (about seven squares yards).
Embroidery is widely practiced. Skullcaps, shirts, vests, and coats may be embroidered— especially ones worn on special occasions. Metalworking has produced silver jewelry and elaborately designed dagger handles, as well as trays and bowls. Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of the stone lapis lazuli, which is made into jewelry.