Uzbeks observe Muslim holidays: namely Ramadan (the month-long period of fasting), Eid al Fitr (the feast after the end of Ramadan) and Feast of Sacrifice (the Islamic feast marking the end of the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca). Wedding, parties 40 days after a birth and circumcision parties can be major events. Parties are also held to mark births, name-giving and first haircuts. These celebrations are called tos. They have traditionally featured music.

Public Holidays: Uzbekistan celebrates New Year’s (January 1), the Feast of the Sacrifice (February 1), Women’s Day (March 8), Navruz (Uzbek New Year, March 21), Victory Day (May 9), Independence Day (September 1), the end of Ramadan (date determined by the Islamic calendar), and Constitution Day (December 10).

See Muslim Holidays

Navruz, Persian New Year

Navruz is a spring festival held throughout Central Asia on March 21s around the time of the vernal (spring) equinox, which used to mark the beginning of a new year. A Muslim adaption of a pre-Islamic vernal equinox festival, it features poem reading, singing, wrestling, tug-of-wars, dancers and horseback riders. Navruz is derived from a Persian word meaning "new." Many people dress in traditional costumes and craftsmen bring out their best work. There are many traditional foods associated with this holiday. Huge pots of sumalak (a kind of porridge), meat stew, dumpling and milk dough. People believe these dishes clean the body and make people friendlier. Navruz is a grand occasion to say good-bye to the old, usher in the new, and hope for a better year.

Navruz (also spelled Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Nauroz, Nevruz, Noruz, Nowruz, Nowrooz and Nawruz) marks the beginning of the traditional new year for Iranians, Caucasians, Central Asians and the Turkic peoples. It is celebrated in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Pakistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, parts of Russia, Xinjiang (western China) and Turkey.

The Navruz celebration lasts for around two weeks and has links with the 3000-year-old Zoroastrianism fire rites and sacrifices to the sun. According to tradition ancient Muslims of the East withheld from quarreling and sought forgiveness, honesty and general goodwill at Navruz. Some Central Asians set fir tree branches on fire and spread its smoke around their homes as they believed that it would keep away potential misfortune and catastrophes. They also wore soft colors like blue and white. Today, people wear often don new clothes and prefer bright colors such as red as well as white and blue.

During Navruz, special dishes are cooked and gifts are exchanged between friends, relatives, neighbors. Parents give gifts to their children, close friends and to each other. Rich people usually give money, clothes and food to poor people. As this day marks the vernal equinox – the day is usually symbolized by the sun. Villagers light fires and jump over them to purify the heart, mind and soul. Congregational prayers are held for future good luck, harmony and protection from famines and other disasters. [Source:, official Kyrgyzstan tourism website]

Navruz is the biggest holiday of the year for Uzbeks. Families gather for large feasts. School children perform skits. From ancient times, the holiday was celebrated in agricultural oases with festivals, bazaars, horse racing, and dog and cock fights. Today, Uzbeks still serve a traditional meal of "sumalyak", which tastes like molasses-flavored cream of wheat and is made from flour and sprouted wheat grains. Sumalyak is cooked slowly on a wood fire, sometimes with the addition of spices. Sprouted grain is a symbol of life, heat, abundance and health. [Source:]

Uzbek Festivals in China

Uzbeks in China have many traditional festivals such as the Rouzhi festival ("Id al-fitr"), Gurbang festival, Shengji festival and Nuluzhi festival. Among these the Rouzhi festival, Gurbang festival and Shengji festival are religion festivals, while the Nuluzhi festival is a traditional ethnic festival. Mostly they are the same as those observed in Uzbekistan but the names are different. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, ~]

The main Uzbek festivals are the Islamic celebrations "Mawlid al-Nabi","Id al-fitr" and "Corban Festival". "Id al-fitr" and "Corban Festival" are the most important festivals in a year. "Id al-fitr" is held after the Ramadan fasting period. During the "Corban Festival", the Uzbek people will butcher cattle and sheep, and fry deep-fried dough cakes. They also have boiled lamb, zhua fan (meaning grasping rice, a typical Xinjiang staple food), and a unique folk food named "Na Ren". Like Uyghurs, Uzbeks butcher sheep and camel during festivals, and gather in mosques. In addition, they also sing and dance and hold various activities such as horse racing, Buzkashi and wrestling. [Source: \=/]

Gurbang, celebrated on March 22, is the Spring Festival of Uzbek and their most important festival. Especially in the countryside, people gather for a large traditional party called a "Shumailaike". At this event all village members sit around a circle in which several pans and stoves are set up to boil a sort porridge called "Shumailaike". In the evening, while the porridge is boiling, people play the tabur, dutar, tambourine and other musical instruments. Accompanied by the exciting and rapid music, young men and girls enjoy singing and dancing. Music, singing and laughter merge together and resonate through the night until the early morning of next day. Then, some respected old man serves porridge to everyone. Uzbeks are expected to treat "Shumailaike" seriously. It is said that its purpose is to memorialize ancestors engaging in farming. ~

Uzbekistan “Cancels Valentines Day”

In 2012, Uzbekistan replaced Valentine's Day with a day honoring the Moghul emperor Babur Johannes Dell and Shodiyor Eshaev of the BBC wrote in: “Lovers in Uzbekistan who used to celebrate Valentine's Day by hearing pop singer Rayhan sing will have to look for other forms of entertainment this year. Rayhan, a popular singer whose music mixes Eastern melodies with Western pop, has given a concert on 14 February for years. But this month the show has been cancelled, along with other events. Instead of Valentine's Day, the authorities are trying instead to promote the study and appreciation of a local hero, the Moghul emperor Babur, whose birthday falls on 14 February. Babur, a descendant of Genghis Khan and founder of a culturally rich and tolerant empire across South and Central Asia, will be commemorated in readings and poetic festivals. [Source: Johannes Dell and Shodiyor Eshaev, BBC News, February 14, 2012 ]

“An official from the education ministry's Department for Enlightenment and Promoting Values said it had issued an internal decree "not to celebrate holidays that are alien to our culture and instead promote Babur's birthday". The official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the decree had been in place for a while. Uzbek citizens were divided on the move, which is the latest in a series by the authorities against Western influences. Abdullaw, a Tashkent resident who described himself as an intellectual, said it was right to stop the concert. "It's the birthday of our great ancestor Mohammed Zahiriddin Babur," he said. "Why should we celebrate some artificial, lightweight event? It doesn't fit our mentality and our history."

“But Jasur Hamraev, an entertainment journalist, said imposing patriotic celebrations was the wrong move. "You shouldn't turn the day into a nationalistic cause because that just divides people," he said, adding that many young people would have enjoyed Rayhan's show. "It's laughable," he said. "For 10 years she's been giving concerts on that day and this year it is banned as if someone had suddenly remembered that it's happening."

“Local reports say the state information agency has in the past warned local publishers to avoid material on Valentine's Day. But a college student told the BBC that Valentine's Day had become a new tradition celebrated among young people in particular, with souvenirs, cards and small presents exchanged between sweethearts. The independent Uzbek news website conducted its own informal survey and found that most of those questioned were planning to celebrate as usual, eating out or going to a club. "It's a shame that instead of going to a concert we'll have to waste a couple of hours at some tedious event the university will put on," it quoted one student as saying.

“It is not the first time that the authorities and the state media in particular have taken aim at what they see as damaging Western influences. In the past few weeks there have been several articles attacking foreign soap operas from Mexico and Latin America for being too explicit and for undermining local values and traditions. Similar criticism was levelled against hard rock and rap music in an extensive campaign a year ago. A Youth Channel on state TV labelled the music "Satanic", feeding on drug addiction and immorality.”

“Alien” Valentines Day With Poetry Reading Day

In 2015, Uzbekistan authorities encouraged people to celebrate Poetry Reading Day instead of Valentines Day. The Jakarta Post reported: “Uzbekistan is urging young people to shun "alien" Valentine's Day traditions such as sending cards, saying they should instead enjoy the love poetry of a 15th-century warrior-prince. The Central Asian country has turned Feb. 14 into "national poetry day," as the government attempts to combat what it calls the "pernicious influence" of Western mass culture. Uzbekistan's authorities began to discourage celebrations of Valentine's Day in 2012. Before then, the exchange of lovers' messages on commercial radio and television stations was a growing trend in the secular country where most people are Muslim. [Source: Jakarta Post, February 13 2015 ^^]

“Now, although there is no official ban on Valentine's Day, universities in Uzbekistan have ordered their students not to mention it. Students have also been urged not to exchange Valentine's cards. The authorities do not want young people "to follow alien mass culture blindly" said Ikbol Mirzo, the deputy chairman for youth issues at Uzbekistan's state-sponsored Writer's Union. "So, we are turning February 14 into Babur Day — a day of courtly love and faithfulness," Ikbol said. ^^

“The date was chosen because it is the birthday of Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur, who ruled part of present-day Uzbekistan before founding the three-century Mughal dynasty in India. He also had a passion for prose and poetry. "We are not against love, not against sweethearts or exchanging gifts on this day. This is all about the symbols that are used on this occasion," Ikbol told AFP. He quoted a line of Babur's love poetry: "When I bend down to the earth to kiss her foot, I feel my head is in the heavens." "I don't know any other poet who glorified women and raised themes of lovesickness, homesickness and fidelity so evocatively as Babur," Ikbol said. ^^

“Uzbekistan has planned poetry festivals throughout the country for Feb. 14 including an event in Tashkent's biggest shopping center. It has also released an album of songs based on Babur’s verses by a popular singer, Ozodbek Nazarbekov. Babur’s poetry is a source of pride for ordinary people in Uzbekistan, many of whom can recite his lines by heart. One political analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, said the government’s efforts to push Babur Day instead of Valentine’s Day are likely to have more impact in the conservative provinces than in more cosmopolitan Tashkent. "Our officials love to ban something first, and only later think about the consequences. This is what happened with rap and rock," the political analyst told AFP. The government's policy on Valentine's Day could gain significant support "especially from the older generation, who fear Western culture may undermine local values," the political analyst said. Uzbekistan is not the only Central Asian state to frown on celebrating Western holidays.” ^^

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated April 2016

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