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About Kazakhstan / Arts / Events, festivals and national holidays

In Kazakhstan, like in many other countries of the world, people celebrate such traditional holidays as, for example, New Year and the 8th of March. However, there are several special holidays in Kazakhstan related to the history of the country.

National holidays, public holidays, vocational and other holidays are celebrated in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

National holidays are the holidays established in the Republic of Kazakhstan in honour of the events, which have special historical significance and which had essential impact on the development of Kazakh sovereignty. Celebration of national holidays is accompanied by the official arrangements in the central and local state agencies.

The national holiday in the Republic of Kazakhstan is The Independence Day on 16 December celebrated on 16-17 December.

Public holidays are the holidays devoted to the events, which have public and political significance, and the holidays traditionally celebrated by the citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Celebration of the state holidays can be accompanied by official arrangements.

Public holidays in the Republic of Kazakhstan are the holidays celebrated on the following days:

  • New Year - 1-2 January;
  • International Women’s Day - 8 March;
  • Nauryz Meiramy - 22 March;
  • Unity of the Nations of Kazakhstan - 1 May;
  • Victory Day - 9 May;
  • Constitution Day of the Republic of Kazakhstan - 30 August;
  • Republic Days - 25 October.

Vocational and other holidays are holidays, which do not have the status of national and public holidays celebrated by certain categories of citizens.

Vocational holidays in the Republic of Kazakhstan:

  • Day of Fire-Prevention Service - 17 April
  • Medical Nurse Day - 12 May
  • Day of the Country Defender - 7 May
  • Memory Day of the Political Repression Victims - 31 May
  • International Culture Day - 31 May
  • Medical Worker Day - 3rd Sunday in June
  • Tax Police Day - 1 June
  • Tax Committee Day - 9 June
  • Press Day - 28 June
  • Day of the National Security Committee - 13 July
  • Prosecutor Day - 13 July
  • Sports Day - 13 August
  • Knowledge Day - 1 September
  • Day of Languages in the Republic of Kazakhstan - 22 September
  • Justice Day - 30 September
  • Teacher’s Day – 1st Sunday in October
  • Criminal Investigation Day - 5 October
  • Police Day - 10 November
  • National Currency (Tenge) Day - 15 November
  • Road Police Day - 23 November
  • Day of Customs Officials - 12 December

8 March, International Women’s Day

Almost a century ago one of the founders of the German Communitst Party, Klara Zetkin proposed to select the day when women in the whole world could attract the public attention to their requirements. Since 1914 this day was celebrated spontaneously on the 8th of March. Since 1965 the 8th of March was announce as a day off in the Communistic USSR. In Kazakhstan this holiday is still a day off, however it lost its former political nature. According to the tradition, during celebration, men present their women with flowers and gifts.

Nauryz Holiday

For its entertaining nature, beauty and richness with traditions and national customs amongst so called new public holidays in Kazakhstan Nauryz is special. Nauryz Holiday is celebrated on the day of spring весеннего vernal equinox. That’s why it is considered to be the holiday of spring and nature revival. Nauryz has ancient roots and is very popular amongst many oriental nations.

Nauryz is an ancient holiday full of symbols!

For the celebration of the NEW YEAR (NAURYZ) Kazakhs start preparing at least one week before. They clean streets, aryks, springs and they plant trees. There is a belief amongst the people that happiness enters only a clean house. By cleaning the area around people clean their souls. People would start preparations for the celebration beforehand. Already a week before, women started to tiding up the houses. Men would clean around the house, in the yard. During the long winter some unnecessary things had accumulated. Housewives would usually leave only the most necessary things at home and would throw the rest or more often they would give the rest to those who needed these things. So purification was starting. Those days, people tried to get rid of everything unnecessary, and this would give hope for better changes, prosperity and better acquisitions.

This day, on the 22nd of March it is compulsory to feed a hungry person and to give something to a poor person. In ancient times rich and noble men were competing amongst themselves who was the most generous one. It was considered to be the noblest thing and this would count by Allah Almighty.

In the evening of the 21st of March people were gathering somewhere in order to listen to the songs, to share the news because people had not seen each other for long winter months. Women were cooking traditional “nauryz kozhe”. Kazakhs love to communicate. They had long conversations; old people were remembering ancient eposes. Akyns were playing dombra and singing famous termeh – songs of wisdom. And people were waiting for dawn.

Children going from house to house were singing zharapazan - songs, which praise the owners of the house, make all the best wishes for them and for that receive presents from the owners of this house.

Young people were gathering separately that night. Girls were cooking for their beloved a special meal “uiky ashar” (it means “waking from sleeping”). They were keeping the best loaf of dried smoked meat from the winter sogym for their beloved, more often it was the symbolic brisket - tos. Young girls for the first time in their life were laying the table (dastarkhan) for their contemporaries. They were showing their cooking abilities. And near them there were their beloved guys with their presents and love. That day young people were allowed to be brave and to show their feelings. They were making for their beloved girls presents in the set called “selt yetkizer”: a mirror symbolizing youth, a comb, the symbol of beauty, and perfume, the symbol of bliss. Laughter, songs and jokes could be heard all night long. That was the night before the vernal equinox!

The first rays of the sun on the 22nd of March are holy and that is why families are trying to be at the highest point of the settlement in order to meet the sun with their pure thoughts and best wishes. Old and young people stretch their arms towards the sun and then devoutly pass their hands over their faces. That is why Kazakhs have this gesture when they say “Bismillah!” Women carry milk in the bowls to sprinkle the first rays of the sun, the earth, the children and with their open hands to accept batah – the bless from the Universal Sun. With the words “Kut darysyn!” women sprinkle the earth with milk, the symbol of prosperity, peace and good.

In this moment, it is important to stretch open hands and to open your heart to the first rays of the Rising Sun. We are the children of the Sun, Umai Goddess, and of the Sky, Tengri. And we must remember this!

And the first day starts. From now on new chronology starts in the Nature. Life is reviving! Young people prepare the joyful spring carnival. They prepare various costumes and masks for this carnival. Young people decorate a rag-doll that symbolizes horrible winter. Noisily and with laughter they put it on a humble horse and with songs and jokes transport it along the streets so that people in their thoughts would give their problems to this doll, which is later burnt at the main square, in the fire, which symbolizes the hot transition to New Life.

Entertainment starts on the square. People swing on “altybakan”, hold contests of akyn-improvisers and sing new songs, which have been composed in wintertime. These were ancient contests, when the winners were receiving expensive gifts and people’s acknowledgment.

This day, on March, 22 people must forgive their enemies the most terrible offence. The harder it is to do it, the more valuable is the prize. Enemies become, if not friends, at least not enemies. People try to tell each other and everyone around as many grateful and kind words as possible. It is especially valuable to hear more grateful words from the old people, “aksakal”. Singers (“sal” and “sery”) surrounded by the masked people go around the settlements and walk along the streets.

Then all the people gather at the main square and the feast starts from aitys “Oli men tiri”. One akyn represents the ancient folk heroes who remind their offspring of their great deeds. From the other side, akyn on behalf of the evil praises human flaws. For people it is important who will win in this aitys because the prosperity of people in the forthcoming year depends on it. Both akyns honestly strive to win.

In the centre of the square there is a luxurious yurta. Seven dressed-up women take the empty crockery from this yurta and put it around the house. It is better when the crockery is various and expensive. This ritual symbolizes prosperity, style and efficiency of the owner of this house because in ancient times Kazakhs paid great attention to the artistic aesthetics in the everyday life.

After that the women with a smile treat all people. Filling in all the bowls with airan (kefir) and pouring it into all the prepared cups. Everybody could come and drink it.

After that men in nice costumes take out the main cauldron with Nauryz kozhe. In ancient times women were contesting whose Nauryz kozhe will be more delicious. Nauryz kozhe is the traditional spring-time soup of seven components. The ingredients can be various but smoked meat from the winter sogym, milk or airan and cereals are compulsory. This is also kind of a contest because there is a belief that if you try Nauryz kozhe in seven houses the year will be lucky for you. That is why every rich family was trying to take out their cauldron with Nauryz kozhe. The best hostess received sincere wishes and praises. And in ancient times this was the best award.

Large cakes (“zheti kulesh”) are brought out by women in white “kimeshek” from the main yurta. At the honourable seat there are respected people, aksakals. Amongst them on the most honourable seat there is a free place for Kydyr Ata. Kydyr Ata twice a year comes down from the Heaven to Earth in order to support the people: in December, on the night of autumnal equinox, and in March, on the day of vernal equinox. He blesses “zheti kulesh” (large cakes) and nauryz kozhe. After that Nauryz kozhe is given initially to the honourable people and then to others. Taking some part of “zheti kulesh” everyone pronounces “niyetiniz kabyl bolsyn”. The singer starts the feast with “Toybastar” song.

Old women in white “kimeshek” throw “shashu” – it can compared to the mythological horn of plenty, from which the crowd received sweets and food. Songs, jokes and laughter are everywhere. The feast is starting. The spring has come. Entertainment, song contests and racing competitions, talks. People exchange the news, meet each other and forgive their resentments.

People prepare aside and, after blessings from Kydyr Ata, make two fires. Everyone tries to walk between two purifying fires, which have been blessed by Kydyr Ata himself. When the fire ceases a little, young people start contesting in jumping over the fire. In the East fire is sacred and it not only purifies from the Evil but also gives strength for new victories. Young men light the torches from the sacred fire and bring along the houses, lighting the dark places and purifying the surroundings. In every house there is the light of the fireplace, “shyrak” (lamp or candle). Old men whisper the words of gratitude to Allah and ask to forgive them and ask for blessings for their children and grandchildren and light the candles. Women fumigate houses...

Entertainment continues all night long because everyone hopes only for better things, especially those who have managed to clean at least one spring and to plant a tree. These days Love lights up new hearts. And of people are older, then other people carefully help them meet each other because Kazakhs are good family-men. For Kazakhs it is very important to hear children’s noise and happy eyes of the women.

1 May, Unity of the Nations of Kazakhstan

Representatives of the elder generation still remember the holiday of the 1st of May as the International Solidarity Day of the Workers. This holiday used to have a large number of ideological slogans. Change of the political regime and gaining independence has changed the meaning of this holiday in Kazakhstan. In 1996 the President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, with his Decree declared the 1st of May to be the Holiday of the Unity of the Nations in Kazakhstan. This holiday in the country where people of different nationalities live in peace and harmony has become on the most symbolical and favourite holidays in Kazakhstan. One of the attributes of the holiday is red carnations.

9 May, Victory Day

The public holiday of Kazakhstan celebrated since the Soviet times. It is celebrated in honour of the Soviet victory over Hitler’s Germany in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The holiday is filled in with deep patriotic sense. This day people remember those soldiers and officers who died; and there were many Kazakhstanians amongst them.

30 August, Constitution Day of Kazakhstan

This day is celebrated in honour of the Basic Law of the country adopted in 1995 at the national referendum. In accordance with this document, Kazakhstan declares itself a democratic, temporal, legal and social state.

16 December – Independence Day

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the Republic of Kazakhstan declared its sovereignty and since then the 16th December is celebrated every year as the Independence Day.

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