October 28th, 2006
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Categories: Culture, Holidays

During Logan’s adoption we were able to experience Nauryz first hand – we LOVED it and framed the picture of Larry and I in full Kazakh attire – that was shared with us during our “stroll” from yurt to yurt.


I also know for my children’s scrapbooks – I was hungry for information about the traditions and holidays – I found this in my “archives” – the link no longer works – it was from a expat’s site. I think you’ll find it well worth the time to read…..

Kazakhstan’s official public holidays always mean a day off from work. For all holidays, a universal greeting is “S prazdnikom!” (happy holiday!).


Locals are also inclined to assimilate some western holidays like Christmas on December 25th (the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates it on January 7th), St.Valentine’s Day, and Halloween.

It’s customary to arrive at least 15 minutes late for parties. If you’re invited to visit somebody’s home, you should take a small gift like a box of chocolates or a bottle of good wine. For more information, read Local Etiquette and Superstitions.

Official Public Holidays

New Year’s Day
(January 1 and either December 31 or January 2)

International Women’s Day
(March 8)

(March 22)

Day of People’s of the Republic of Kazakhstan
(May 1)

Victory Day
(a commemoration of the end of WWII for Russia on May 9, 1945)

Kazakhstan Constitution Day
(30 August)

Republic Day
(October 25)

Independence Day
(December 16)

Happy New Year!

December 31st – January 1st. December 31st is a working day, and people sometimes rest on January 1st and January 2nd. New Year’s Eve is by far the biggest holiday for all ex-Soviet people, as well as their favorite. They love it so much, in fact, they celebrate it twice a year. One of the most difficult things for expats to understand is what “Old New Year” means. Before Peter the Great (d.1725 AD), the Russian calendar was the Julian calendar, 13 days behind the European one. Peter, a great reformer, made a ruling to change the calendar, but people’s habits were harder to change, and they continued to follow the old-style calendar for religious holidays and every day occasions. So, there is a real New Year’s Eve, the night of December 31st and January 1st, and the Old New Year on January 12th . The Orthodox Church, which was in opposition to most of Peter’s reforms, also refused to assume the Gregorian calendar and, for example, still celebrates Christmas on January 7th while the rest of the Christian world has festivities on December 25th.

As a greeting, say “S Novyom Godom!” (Happy New Year!) in Russian.

International Women’s Day

Celebrated on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day is very similar to the American Mother’s Day. The only difference is that not only mothers, but also all girls and women are congratulated. Local men give flowers and gifts to their female relatives and colleagues. At home, they do housework and try to be real gentlemen. Women can also give each other flowers and presents. The common greeting in Russian is “S Vosmym Marta!”


March 22nd. Nauryz is an ancient Turkic New Year, the celebration of coming Spring on the day of the Vernal Equinox. There are a lot of holiday activities around the city, most of which represent Kazakh national traditions. Asians really enjoy this day, while for others it may be no more than an official holiday. Walk around downtown to listen to akyns (national poets/singers), see national contests, folk games, dancing, etc. Kazakh national food is everywhere, but cooking nauryz kozhe is a must. Nauryz kozhe (a special holiday dish) consists of seven components – wheat, oats, rice, barley, raisins, wild apricots, and millet. It symbolizes the hope for well-being in the coming year. You may say Nauryz kutty bolsyn! to wish a happy holiday in Kazakh.

Day of People’s of the Republic of Kazakhstan

May 1st. During Soviet times, it was the Day of Working People’s Solidarity and was renamed the Day of National Unity as Kazakhstan gained independence. Older generations, nostalgic for Soviet times, warmly congratulate each other. For most people, it’s just a day off without any ideological implication.

Victory Day

May 9th. The day of the victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) is a very important day for all the ex-Soviet states. Over 20 million Soviet people perished during the war and, in fact, there was at least one dead in every family. Even though there are very few veterans left, the government – much to the disgust of the people – eliminated all kinds of benefits that they enjoyed.

Almaty was one of the fortunate cities not directly affected by the war because German troops never reached Central Asia. Almaty housed many refugees and a lot of institutions were evacuated to Almaty from invaded regions. For example, Mosfilm (Moscow Film Studio) and the Children’s Theater boosted the local cinema and theater progress.

3 Responses to “Holidays”

  1. outofbounds says:

    Interesting thoughts about your “bonding” to Kazakhstan, Cyndi. I always thought that with your very active participation in group activities, it was a “given” that you held the country in very high regards well prior to Logan’s adoption.

    Laurie’s & my connection to Kazakhstan developed in a distinctly different way. Our first exposure to the notion of adopting from Kazakhstan came in the form of a comment from my older brother, who had travelled there often for business, which was “don’t go there, there is no more backward place on earth”.

    Despite my brother’s well-intentioned warning, Laurie & I were bound & determined to go having already bonded with Caroline as a referral, and being compelled by the “destiny” of it all.

    We travelled overland from Orenburg, Russia some 5+ hours through the open steppe into Kazakhstan, having been transferred from car-to-car at the Kazakh border, and proceeding the rest of the way with no translator.

    We were immediately mesmerized by the vastness of the open space (A particular memory being a cemetary seemingly in the middle of nowhere with all the prayer flags blowing in the wind), and the feelings of pensiveness of having been constantly looking over our shoulders in uncertain cities like Moscow & Orenburg were melting away by the mile, even though we were actually travelling farther into the unknown.

    It was the simplest of things which we found so appealing. We were forced to stop for about 1/2 hour to accomodate a telephone crew stringing wire under the road, which gave us the opportunity to observe the children of a small village screaming around us on crooked bicycles straight out of the 50′s without a care in the world as if they were on the latest top-of-the-line Schwinn, really set us at ease, and gave us the sense we were in a special place.

    Upon arrival in Aqtobe, the next defining moment that drove at our hearts about Kazakhstan, was when we were hanging around at the Hotel on our balcony, we were struck to notice many seemingly well dressed people walking past the dumpsters in back of the hotel, and almost no one resisting the urge to stop and look in, and taking whatever they found useful in their lives, be it a plastic bag, or cardboard or whatever. It really struck us to the core, how things are in other places than home, especially since we were virtually the only ones in the hotel at the time, and it gave us the direct sense that it was “our” garbage that they were relying on.

    Going forward past these specific experiences to have received generally the exceptional hospitality & wonderful food we did, and dramatic natural beauty we encountered, Laurie & I still look back upon our travel there, despite all the innate challenges of getting by there, as the “vacation” of a lifetime, richer even than a trip to Paris or Milan for the special rewards bestowed upon us, perfect daughter nonwithstanding.

    All the best to your family, and hope to see you next summer at the next Midwest KZ picnic!

    Tom Adams

  2. Cyndi says:

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for writing :)

    We’ll be hosting the 2007 Picnic – so even if my in-laws plan a family vacation – we’ll be attending the picnic. ;-)

    So happy to hear how precious your memories are — I know so many people had fallen in love with Kazakhstan during their adoptions and I felt guilty because I had such fond memories of Albania and did not with Kazakhstan. I’m very happy that circumstances led us back – I treasure that it happened and am very glad to be able to share warm memories with all my children.

    Tell Laurie hello and send some updated photos or your two cuties. :)

    Take care,

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