Thousands of people across Turkey are making preparations to mark the spring festival Newroz, which will officially begin Tuesday, with their own unique local traditions.
The International Turkish Culture Organization is one of the main organizers for Newroz-related events in Turkey.
It will host an official Newroz ceremony in the capital Ankara that will see attendance from several high-level state officials. Several other similar events are being planned in various cities across Turkey to mark the festival that signifies the joys of spring.
On the whole, the festival in Turkey is celebrated more officially rather than individually by people despite its long tradition in the Anatolian culture.
Some essential Newroz traditions such as lighting up a bonfire and jumping over it still take place in the country but mostly they are only done at official ceremonies.
Turkey's Kurdish population in particular see the festival as an important traditional and cultural event.
In eastern provinces close to the Iranian and Armenian border, the festival is celebrated in a more traditional way.
Last year, majority of Newroz celebrations had been banned in Turkey due to security concerns amid counter-terrorism operations in the southeast.
- Old tradition
The Newroz festival, which also symbolizes brotherhood and peace, has been celebrated for more than 18 centuries across Anatolia and Asia.
It marks the start of a New Year and is considered as a forerunner of spring.
The March 21 festival is celebrated mainly in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Turkic republics such as Azerbaijan, Caucasus countries, Albania and Macedonia.
- 7 stages
Two weeks before March 21, people in Igdir province start to fast against bad words such as swearing as part of the festival's first stage.
People try to forget last year's troubles and sorrows. Efforts are made to reconcile those not on talking terms with each other.
The second stage is making efforts to clean the environment. As part of this stage, families begin spring cleaning in their garden, following which the trash collected is burnt and people leap over it after lighting up a bonfire. This stage is called "Alev Alev (fire, fire)" that symbolizes a way to get rid of problems.
One of the most important parts of Newroz is the third stage called the "Remembrance of Deaths" during which the local community cleans cemeteries in remembrance of death.
Planting flowers, washing the tombstones, reciting the holy Quran and delivering home-made food to visitors at cemeteries are considered necessary steps of this stage.
In the fourth stage, people visit the old and sick.
Events for children and the youth mark the fifth and sixth stages.
The seventh stage is called "Yeddi Levin," which refers to a large tray filled by the oldest individual of the family with seven different kinds of candies, nuts, fruits and other sweets.
These trays, which are prepared joyfully at homes, are then distributed among friends, relatives and neighbors throughout three days of the festival.
Also, when children go from door-to-door in the morning, house owners give them some gifts and sweets from these trays.
As part of the celebrations, people stage amateur plays in their homes and also wear costumes.
One such play is called "Kosa Kosa" in which one character wears a white dress representing winter, whereas another wears a green one symbolizing spring.
People enjoy similar games and other activities throughout the three days.
The Newroz festival is UN-recognized international cultural day. -