Su Chershenbesi (Water Tuesday), the first of four magic Tuesdays before the most-loved ancient holiday of Azerbaijanis - Novruz Bayram will be celebrated across the country on February 25.
Novruz is a symbol of winter's end and the advent of spring, an affirmation of life in harmony with nature, indication of equality and fraternity and renewal of nature.
People start celebrations of festive Novruz a month before the holiday, which is associated with four elements - water, fire, earth and wind. Spring comes with all its beauties -water unfreezes, land warms, soil awakes and weather changes.
According to the legend, God created man of soil and water, gave him warmth and ordered the wind to wake him up. Novruz symbolizes humanity, and is a real holiday of nature.
Novruz Tuesdays are considered sacred. The four Tuesdays are named after these elements and called Su Chershenbesi (Water Tuesday), Od Chershenbesi (Fire Tuesday), Torpaq Chershenbesi (Earth Tuesday) and Hava or Akhir Chershenbe (Wind or Last Tuesday).
Each Tuesday has its own traditions. Thus, according to the folk belief, water purifies and stirs, fire, earth and wind awakens the nature, the trees begin to blossom, symbolizing coming of spring.
Since God created man from water and earth, water symbolizes the beginning of life. According to legend, on this day any water is renewed.
On this day young girls used to go to springs in the mountains for pure water and come back with water in their Sahangs, a traditional Azeri jug, made of metal with special carvings on it. Girls used to splash water around their houses and on their relatives' faces. A bowl with water in the Khoncha, a Novruz tray with nuts and sweets, is a required attribute on Water Tuesday.
Novruz is famous for its dishes, but what is most interesting, there are special dishes for each Tuesday. Thus, lentil-pilaf is usually prepared on the first Tuesday, because bean dinners should decorate the table that day. You should ask - why bean? Beans are rich in proteins, which are very easy to digest. For example, soybean is a unique plant rich in protein, which quality compared to meat.
Cooking lentil-pilaf is quite easy - you will need rice (500 grams), lentils (230 grams), butter (200 grams), raisins (30 grams), saffron (0.1 grams), cinnamon (0.2 grams) and salt to your taste.
First, you need to sort, wash and soak lentils in a cold water for 2-3 hours. Then boil it in boiling salted water.
Boil the rice in plenty of boiling and firmly salted water but to the state of "al dente" - it should be slightly moist. Recline it on a colander to drain.
At the bottom of the pot "gazmag" is usually laid - dough, which turn into a crispy crust with extraordinary taste during the cooking process. To prepare gazmag you should mix the flour and salt and grind it into crumbs with butter, add sour cream and knead a soft dough, then roll it out into a circle and place on the bottom of the pan, on the 50 grams of melted butter.
Mix boiled rice and lentils, put them into the cauldron, and brought to readiness. Then pour the melted butter on top. Braise spices and raisins until readiness and then serve them as a gravy for the rice.
On all four Tuesdays and on the eve of Novruz it is traditional to light bonfires and despite of the age and gender, jump seven times over one or once over 7 bonfires. According to the belief, fire is purifying and takes away all your troubles before the start of the New Year [solar calendar]. Young boys and girls take the ash of the fire and throw it far from the house. It means all the mischance of the family is thrown away with the ash.
Novruz has an ancient history. It is often linked to Zoroastrianism, the oldest of the monotheist religions. Scientific researches relate the Novruz Holiday to the period of prophet Zardush, which dates back 3,500 to 5,000 years.
Another theory suggests that Novruz dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. This holiday was celebrated in the ancient Babylon in Nisan (March, April) and the celebrations lasted 12 days, with each having their ceremonies and performances.