Afghanistan Day or Nowruz is on March 21 every year. The holiday marks the beginning of spring and also the Afghan New Year. Farvardin or the first month in the Solar Hijri calendar starts on this day, usually on March 20 or 21. People with Persian origins around the world celebrate Nowruz with great enthusiasm. A time for feasting, family, and friends. For many Afghans abroad, Nowruz is one of the only tangible connections to a home they once knew. Today is as much about food and getting together as it is about nostalgia and now, resistance.
History of Afghanistan Day
Nowruz celebrations have been central to Afghan culture and life since ancient times. The celebrations are embedded in the Zoroastrian tradition that many countries follow — Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Nowruz, which means “new day” in Persian signifies the start of spring and the new year in Afghanistan.
Today marks the end of winter and the promise of brighter days ahead. Nowruz symbolizes a rebirth of nature, and with it comes new life for the people of Afghanistan. As if on cue, tulips in the country start to blossom in spring. These beautiful flowers are symbols of purity, love, romance, and passion in Afghanistan – all emotions befitting spring. Tulips also happen to be the country’s national flower.
Nowruz is a glorious celebration passed down from one generation to the next. You’ll find that every historical period has a different interpretation of Nowruz. Throughout the ages, one thing remains common – the Afghans consider the celebration a sacred and shared heritage. Today, thousands of people from across the country gather at the mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif to celebrate.
The eve of Nowruz is a time of feasting and ceremonies for families in Afghanistan. Everyone gets busy cleaning the house or yard. Markets are chock-a-block with people shopping for new clothes and food. No shopping expedition is complete without buying dried sweets, fruits, and nuts – items that are vital to the celebrations. Many people prefer moving house during Nowruz since it’s considered auspicious.
Nowruz today has taken on a different meaning for people displaced from their home country. The celebrations are traditionally about rebirth and renewal. Many Afghans today view it as one of the few links to a different Afghanistan — a glorious culture facing the risk of oblivion.
Afghanistan Day timeline
The Iranian religion based on the teachings of the Prophet Zoroaster is born.
Nowruz and Sadeh (a mid-winter festival) survive the Arab conquest of Persia.
Persian poet Ferdowsi writes “Shahnameh,” where he credits the foundations of Nowruz to the mythical King Jamshid.
The United Nations officially recognizes the International Day of Nowruz.
Afghanistan Day FAQs
When did Afghanistan gain freedom?
Afghanistan gained independence on August 8, 1919. The peace treaty signed at Rawalpindi recognized the country’s freedom.
What was ancient Afghanistan called?
Afghanistan was once called Ariana or Bactria. Bactria was home to fire-worshipping tribes from 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C.
What does Afghanistan celebrate?
Afghanistan is a predominantly Muslim country. Some important celebrations are Eid al-Adha, Ashura, Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan), and Mawlid. Religious minorities celebrate festivals unique to their respective regions or religions.
Afghanistan Day Activities
Eat like the Afghans do
Celebrate Nowruz with a traditional feast. Try some lip-smacking 'make' or fried freshwater fish and 'sabzi challah’ (lamb and spinach stew).
Pay homage to Afghanistan’s national flower. Bring home a bunch of tulips to brighten your home.
Learn about Afghanistan
Afghanistan is much more than the war-torn country the media portrays it to be. Read about its rich history, surreal landscapes, and incredible people.
5 Facts About Afghanistan That Will Blow Your Mind
A nation of poets
Tuesdays are always poetry nights in the city of Herat, where women, children, and men gather to share and hear ancient verses.
Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Most body-building gyms in the country feature pictures of a ripped Schwarzenegger.
Home to the world’s oldest oil paintings
The caves of Bamiyan in the Afghanistan highlands housed the first-known oil paintings from 650 B.C.
The land of opium
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium.
Afghanistan before Islam
Before Islam, most people in Afghanistan followed Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
Why We Love Afghanistan Day
It keeps ancient traditions alive
Nawruz is as old as Afghanistan. The celebrations have survived time, wars, cultural influences, and politics. Given the turmoil in the country, it’s incredible how this ancient tradition remains a constant.
It offers perspective
How many of us know anything about Afghanistan besides bloodshed or violence? Nawruz offers a peek into a glorious culture and civilization.
Nawruz gives space for Afghan families to connect and bond. Through food and celebrations, Nawruz plays a part in preserving culture and identity.
Afghanistan Day dates