Celebrations for Nowruz — the coming of spring — were held in the southern Georgian town of Marneuli, where the majority of the population are ethnic Azerbaijanis.
For Azerbaijanis, Nowruz is a national celebration. It is a holiday of Persian and Zoroastrian origins and lasts for three days, from 20–23 March, although the exact dates may differ from country to country. Nowruz is also the beginning of the New Year in the Persian calendar.
In Georgia, Nowruz is officially marked on 21 March; in Azerbaijan it lasts from 20–26 March. People organise feasts, cook traditional dishes, and participate in various events and rituals.
Families prepare for the celebration several days in advance. They celebrate on the four Tuesdays before the day arrives, with each representing one of the four elements: water, fire, earth, and wind.
Su charshanbasi (Water Tuesday) — symbolises the refreshing of the water. According to tradition, people go to the water early in the morning and drink it, which means that their dreams will come true.
Od charshanbasi (Fire Tuesday) — the fire symbolises warmth and the sun; the symbol of Nowruz is also fire. On fire Tuesday, people make bonfires, with a child in the family lighting it, as the fire is holy. When the fire is lit people jump over it three or seven times, symbolising the cleansing of their bodies. On Fire Tuesday, families light as many candles as there are members of the family.
Torpag charshanbasi (Earth Tuesday) — on this day, families plant wheat on plates. Once it begins to grow, this means that the earth is awakening after the winter. It also symbolises the strength of the new generation.
Yel charshanbasi (Wind Tuesday) — the wind is a creative energy, helping trees to enrich the soil and pollinate flowers. This day is for happiness, success, and love. On this day, girls and young women sometimes try to read their futures, if they want to see their future husband. They eat an apple and put the seeds under their pillow at night, after which they will see their future husband in their dreams.
The feast table also has set rules for Nowruz. For example, there must be at least seven different dishes with names beginning with the letter ‘S’.
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili arrived in Marneuli for Nowruz, as well as Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. They congratulated residents of Marneuli on the celebration.
With the Nowruz celebration, people meet the new year and it is one of the biggest celebrations for them. Almost the entire population are in the streets to celebrate together.
On 28 September 2009, UNESCO listed Nowruz on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Nowruz, or Persian New Year, can be traced back 3000 years.
In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognised Nowruz as an International Day.
According to the 2014 census, there are 233,000 Azerbaijanis in Georgia, the second-largest ethnicity in the country after Georgians.
Nowruz is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kosovo, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.
The Soviet Union abolished Nowruz celebrations in 1926 in Azerbaijan. It was restored in 1967.