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Newroz, the Kurdish New Year

The Kurdish holiday of Newroz is celebrated on the eve of the 20th of March, marking both the Kurdish New Year and the beginning of spring. Commemorated by various ethnic groups in countries throughout the Middle East and central Asia, the Kurds have been celebrating Newroz for over 2,700 years. Newroz, which etymologically means “new day”, symbolizes hope, unity and new beginnings. For the Kurds it has also come to symbolize freedom from oppression, since it celebrates the legendary fight of the Kurdish blacksmith Kawa over the tyrannical King Zuhak. According to the myth, the hero defeated the evil king on the eve of Newroz and lit a fire on a hilltop to spread the news of his victory.

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Newroz festivities usually stretch over three days, starting on the day of the spring equinox. Dressed in traditional clothing, old and young come together to sing, dance, and picnic for hours. As the sun is setting, bonfires and torches are lit in every town and village to mark the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring.