Spring 1999 (7.1)
Holidays in Azerbaijan
Sociolinguistically Speaking - Part 2
Holidays in Azerbaijan - Dates and Description
by Jala Garibova and Betty Blair
(Go to Sociolinguistically Speaking under About Azeri in the TOPICS Section for more articles on language learning.)
One of the most puzzling aspects of this transition period in Azerbaijan is related to holidays. Many old Soviet celebrations have been abolished and replaced by new ones. Naturally people have trouble keeping everything straight in their minds.
Of course, some holidays seem to survive all eras, regardless of the political or social changes that take place. For example, Noruz Bayram (Celebration of Spring-March 20-21) is vibrant today despite the many prohibitions against it during the Soviet period [See AI 2.2, Spring 1994, "Noruz - Celebration That Would Not Die"]
Similarly, International Women's Day, March 8, a holiday closely associated with Communist ideology, is very much alive today although all the other Soviet holidays have long since been erased. Even during the Soviet period, Women's Day had gradually become disassociated with political ideology. Men seem to enjoy having an excuse to formally express their admiration to women, whether it be their mothers, sisters, colleagues or friends.
May First - Solidarity Day for Workers - has not officially survived since independence although we still have vivid memories of this holiday. It used to be the "Holiday of All Holidays" in the Soviet Union with military parades and elaborate concerts organized at the state level. Signs of festivity could be seen everywhere. May 1st and 2nd were official holidays from work and everybody went to the countryside for picnics and cookouts known as "mayovka" (Russian).
Paying a Visit
Azerbaijanis always try to visit their parents on a holiday if they happen not to be living with them. The same goes for aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas. They never go empty-handed. At least, a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates is always offered. When Azerbaijanis congratulate their parents or elderly relatives for the holiday, they hug and kiss them. The younger person initiates the greetings.
[Note that in the examples below, the plural, more polite form of the word, is set off by parentheses. It can be substituted for the singular form which precedes it.]
Congratulations on the holiday.
Congratulations on the holiday (plural form)
May you witness so many holidays like this.
You can also add:
with your children
with your grandchildren
with your great-grand children
Together with you.
I wish you long life.
Add or substitute the following words:
luck / fortune
It would be considered impolite to merely say "thank you" and not return the congratulations. For example:
I also congratulate you on the holiday.
Don't forget other family members:
with your family
with your children
with your spouse
You, together with your family, I wish health.
Don't forget to send greetings from other members of your own family:
I also congratulate you on behalf of my family.
Usually adults kiss children and say:
May you grow up to be a big boy!
May you grow up to be a big girl!
May you celebrate so many holidays like this together with your mother and father!
Don't forget to mention other relatives, depending on the situation, if they live in the same house.
(Stress the last syllable "la").
- mother / father
- grandmother / grandfather
- sister / brother
- aunt / uncle (father's side)
- aunt / uncle (mother's side).
With "so and so", may you celebrate many holidays like this together!
Noruz and New Year's Day
Since Noruz is also the celebration of Spring, you can also use the following greeting at Noruz.
May you see so many springs like this!
Noruz greetings often include wishes for the welfare of the entire community and nation, especially when the country is experiencing severe social and political difficulties.
May this year's foot be light!
Let's hope for security and peace this year!
Women's Day - March 8
Wishes following the congratulations often entail a compliment emphasizing feminine qualities.
I hope you will always be so beautiful!
I hope you will always remain so young!
May 28 is Azerbaijan's Independence Day. Many politically motivated holidays have been introduced since independence and, in general, people are quite confused with the one exception -Independence Day. Since this is a political holiday, wishes are usually politically motivated and related to the society in general.
May the day come that the war ends (referring to the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict).
May the day come that our lands are liberated. (referring to the nearly 20 percent of territory presently under military occupation by Armenia).
Ramazan and Gurban Bayram
These are religious holidays determined by the lunar calendar. Therefore their dates vary. Such holidays have only become officially recognized since Independence (1991). It is more usual to congratulate elderly people rather than young people on these occasions.
Gifts may range from a postcard to jewelry. Gifts are usually given on New Year's Day, Noruz (sometimes also on Ramazan and Gurban) and Women's Day. It is usual to bring sweets, cookies, traditional baked goods on Noruz, Ramazan and Gurban.
Men often present perfume to women or, in special cases, jewelry. Women offer men gifts such as pens, ties and shirts. In the past, people usually didn't unwrap gifts in front of the giver as it would be considered irrelevant. But, gradually, this practice is changing. More and more often these days, opening gifts is considered the norm and the polite thing to do.
For more articles in this series, see Section TOPICs and click on Sociolinguistically Speaking.
From Azerbaijan International (7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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