Happy New Year! Yes, that's right, the first day of spring marks the first day of the Persian calendar year. Welcome to the year 1388!
Nao Roz or "New Sun" is a big holiday here and has a fairly strict, albeit fun, protocol. Here is a step by step guide to enjoying New Years in Afghanistan.
Step 1) Shake out the house (or spring cleaning as we call it in the states). Any linen that can be shaken, any carpet that can be taken out, everything is dragged outside, washed, hang dried, dusted. Winter clothes are stored, spring clothes are donned. Step 2) Visit friends and family and eat way too much sugar. The traditional dish of Nao Roz is Aft Mewa which is a salad made of 7 nuts and dried fruits in syrup. I think it might keep Kabul's dentists in business. Step 3) Bring sweets to work the day after the holiday. I found this one out the hard way, I didn't bring sweets and am still teased for it. Step 4) Go to the hills and picnic. We weren't able to do this one partly because traffic was so bad and partly because security isn't great in the hills. But it seems pretty mandatory. I asked one PACTEC's drivers what he was planning on doing for the holiday, and he looked at me like I was crazy for asking and said, "Picnicking, of course!" Some optional steps include going to Mazar-e-Sharif for Gul Surkh (Flower Festival) to look at tulips and pray at the Blue Mosque or attend a buzkashi match.
I was able to do the first two steps of Nao Roz. Hopefully we'll do some picnicking soon. It's amazing to see how important spring is in a country that is so greatly affected by winter. After freezing for four months, this place feels full of life and a renewed sense of hope. It's a great feeling!
Happy Nao Roz!