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Novruz – or Novruz Bayramy in Azeri – along with New Year and a religious Ramazan holiday is one of the major and the most favorite holiday of Azerbaijan. Although celebrated in Islamic countries, Novruz is not a religious holiday actually being the celebration of the vernal equinox and the symbolic renewal of nature. According to scholars, it originates from the Ancient Mesopotamia. In Babylon New Year was celebrated the 21st day of Nissanu (correspondent to March and April) with festivities held further 12 days, each commemorated with individual rites, amusements and performances. Novruz is certain to have been celebrated in pre-Islamic times and later. During the Soviet period it was given unofficial status and even persecuted. Novruz
Novruz is associated with spring, start of agricultural activities, renewal of nature and warm days. This period being of great importance it caused many traditions and rites associated with magic, the cult of nature and earth, and belief in the perishing and reviving nature etc. Virtually, celebrations began four weeks before the actual day of festivity. These four weeks – or, exactly four Wednesdays – were each devoted to one of the four elements and called correspondingly, although names varied from location to location. They were: Su Charhshanba (Water Wednesday), Odlu Charhshanba (Flame Wednesday), Torpaq Charhshanba (Earth Wednesday), Akhir Charhshanba (Last Wednesday). According to folk beliefs, on Water Wednesday ‘water renewed and dead-water came to stir’; the Flame Wednesday was believed the day of fire rebirth; on Earth Wednesday the earth revived. On the Last Wednesday the wind opened tree buds and spring arrived.
Another interesting version of the “four Wednesdays” existed in Shirvan area of Azerbaijan. They were devoted: the first Wednesday to air, the second one – to water, the third to the earth, and the fourth one – to trees (plants). It meant: on first Wednesday air warms, water on the second, the third week means the earth to wake, the fourth one stands for trees and plants to revivify.

The most important of the Wednesdays was the Akhir Charhshanba (Last Wednesday before the vernal equinox) and most of important rites and ceremonies were delivered that day which concerned all the aspects of human life. Those rites were intended to provide welfare for an individual, his family and the community in general, to get rid of the old year’s troubles and to avert a calamity.
First of these essential traditions was the concoction of a ritual food named Samani (malt) which epitomized fertility of nature and the human race.

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