By Asma Nemati (in Afghanistan)

As the Afghan New Year approaches on March 21st, there is warmth in the overall environment of Afghanistan. Many families travel north to the province of Balkh, where they take part in the numerous colorful festivities in the beautiful and ancient city of Mazar-e Sharf, home to the famous blue mosque of Afghanistan. Besides the festivities and visiting one of the many shrines, the age-old game of Buzkashi (a traditional team sport played on horseback) is another amazing occasion not to be missed while in Mazar.

While a few lucky ones get to make it to the massive festival in the North, many celebrate Nowruz in their respective villages and cities. My first authentic Nowruz last year was spent with my extended family still living in Kabul. In the US, where I was raised, my mother usually did the basics of Nowruz; she would prepare the delicious dish of Haft-meva (consisting of seven dried fruits which are soaked in water for about a week prior to Nowruz; the result is a cool, syrupy drink full of deliciously puffy dried fruits) and serve it to guests that dropped by to wish a blessed year to come. Another tradition is to walk on fresh grass for luck in the coming year. One more ritual is to jump over fire for even more luck!

Whereas in the US we weren’t lucky enough to do all the rituals—which would’ve been an occasion full of incredible fun, I’m sure, for us kids—I was able to witness it all last year for the first time as an adult. This year, like last, I’m quite eager to witness yet another beautiful day to mark the first day of Spring in, hopefully, quiet security circumstances.

Asma Nemati is based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her blogs have appeared in Foreign Policy and The Huffington Post.

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