Holidays as Part of the National Fabric
This concept didn’t really cross my mind until some of my Azeri friends pointed it out to me (I’m fairly certain my powers of observation here are reaching a perilous nadir). Throughout the spring, Azerbaijan has been celebrating all sorts of holidays. Novruz is the obvious big one. And that is a celebration: Fire! Food! Family! But there are more: Victory Day on March 9, celebrating the end of World War II and the “defeat of fascism”; Day of the Republic on May 28, noting Azerbaijan’s first independence day back in 1918, prior to the Soviet aggression; National Army Day on June 26, self-explanatory. June 15 was a day in remembrance of Heydar returning to the leadership of the Azerbaijan Republic in the ’90s.
We, too, in America and other countries have various national holidays celebrating people, events, veterans, and religious observances. People across America just went on a family and food and celebration binge for
my birthday Independence Day. Over a similar timespan as above, we’ve got Easter, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. Parades, fireworks, grilling, family get-togethers, celebrations in spades.
Okay, so now that we’ve established that both countries have holidays, what’s the big deal? The interesting thing to me is that the national holidays in Azerbaijan, even October 18, the official Independence Day for the current Republic, are not holidays celebrated together with families and friends. The only holiday I can see a family-oriented spin on is Novruz, which isn’t so national in scope as it is cultural across countries with strong Zoroastrian histories. The Yeni İl (New Year) celebration has these features, too. With national holidays, instead, it seems as though the state has their own celebration, with an officially-sponsored parade in Baku and a televised version of it. This past military holiday on June 26th, for example, was a low-attendance, low-profile parade that blocked off a section of Baku for a morning. It seemed people hardly noticed the holiday, observing it only by not going to work because it was a day off.
Whereas for national holidays in America, we are awash in parades and red-white-and-blue and family get-togethers, the national holidays in Azerbaijan aren’t so woven into the fabric of ‘being Azerbaijani’. This idea came up last week as we were giving a brief presentation about the Fourth of July celebrations in America. After showing videos of celebrations at the White House, Macy’s-sponsored fireworks shows, and parades, all of a family-oriented nature, our Azeri friends told us that their national holidays, aren’t occasions for families to get together. This strikes me as only another aspect of the lives of our Azerbaijani compatriots that is separated from the that of “official” Azerbaijan.