Azerbaijani people celebrate Yel Chershenbesi (Wind Tuesday), the third of four magic Tuesdays before the most-loved ancient Novruz holidays, on March 11.
Celebrations of festive Novruz begin a month before the actual holiday. Thus, before the main holiday the four Tuesdays named after these elements and called Su Chershenbesi (Water Tuesday), Odlu Chershenbe (Fire Tuesday), Yel Chershenbesi (Wind Tuesday), and Ilakhir Chershenbe or Torpaq Chershenbesi (Earth or Last Tuesday) are being celebrated. Water purifies and stirs; fire, soil and wind awaken the nature; and trees begin to blossom. All these symbolize the coming of spring, according to the folk belief.
The legend says four different winds - the Khazri, a cold northern wind, the Gilavar, a mild, southern wind, Agh Yel (the White Wind) and Gara Yel (the Black Wind), both hot, dry summer winds - come together on Wind Tuesday, and wander around the world, reviving the water and driving the fire, which notifies of the imminent coming of spring. Agh Yel appears in a white dress, Gara Yel in a black one, Khazri in a blue one and Gilavar in a red one, according to mythology.
As previous Tuesdays, Wind Tuesday has its own traditions, including the traditional song, "Yel baba" ("Father of Wind"). "Yel baba" is related with the belief of ancient people in the God of Wind. Moreover, "Yel baba" ceremonies are linked with the traditions of farming.
Everyone who wants to know whether or not his or her wish will come true stands under a willow tree and calls "Yel baba" on this day. If the wind blows and the branches touch the ground, it is believed that the dream will come true.
Novruz is famous for its dishes, but what is most interesting is that there are special dishes for each Tuesday. Also, people traditionally eat milky pilaf on this day. Cooking this kind of pilaf is quite easy; you only need 1.5 liters of milk, 3 cups of rice, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 100-150 grams of persimmon, 100-150 grams of raisins, 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, saffron or turmeric and salt to taste.
Thoroughly rinse the rice, and then cover it with water for 1-2 hours. Then, add salt and rice in the boiling milk, and closer to the ready, add saffron and sugar. Draining the milk, add turmeric to the rice.
Add a little butter in a saucepan and place gazmag on its bottom. "Gazmag" is the dough that turns into a crispy crust with an extraordinary taste during the cooking process. To prepare gazmag, you should mix the flour and salt and grind it into crumbs, add butter and sour cream, and knead it into a soft dough. Then roll it out into a circle and place it on the bottom of the pan on which 50 grams of butter has melted.
Then, add the rice, and prepare at a small fire for one hour. Raisins and persimmon are prepared separately, using butter, and then is used as a sauce for rice. This pilaf can also be served up with honey and fig jam.
Also, on all four Tuesdays and on the eve of Novruz there is a tradition to light bonfires and regardless of the age and gender, jump seven times over one or once over seven bonfires. According to the belief, fire is purifying and takes away all your troubles before the start of the New Year, according to the solar calendar.