Kazakh national holidays

National Holidays of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan with its vast territory contains many nationalities that have committed to the growth of the number of the Kazakh public holidays. Today Kazakhstan celebrates the holidays of the major religions in the country and the holidays adopted from Russians during the tsar period and later in Soviet time, added with some new holidays that have emerged after Independence.

New Year - January 1st

New Year is one of the biggest if not the biggest and most beloved holidays in Kazakhstan and all Central Asia. Originally, New Year celebration was adopted from the Russians in the mid 19th century from the Russians that were sent to Kazakhstan. Like the other post-Soviet countries, Kazakhstan is still celebrating widely this holiday with a compulsory Russian “Olivie” salad and decorations. 

In the cities and villages open-air carnivals are hosted together with the midnight fireworks. Kazakh have their own Santa Claus but he is called Ayaz Ata and accompanied with Ayaz Kyz, who is a kind of granddaughter Snow Girl character. Kazakh Ayaz Ata is has a great alikeness with traditional Western Santa Claus, similarly bringing gifts for children but wearing a Kazakh white kalpak.

The celebration starts on the 31st of December with the preparation of the dining table which is the centerpiece of the party. As usually, midnight is the main climax of the new year celebration, so before midnight all the close friends and families gather around the table and await the coming of the new year. When it comes a few minutes to midnight, everyone participate in the countdown and cheer the glasses with Sovetskya sparkling wine and exchange wishes in their toasts for success and happiness with one another.

Kyrgyz Nooruz celebration, swing

Nauryz - March 22nd

“Nauryz” word originates from the Persian language, and the word literally means “new day”. It is celebrated on March 22 in all Central Asia, and it is considered the beginning of spring. Nauryz is also a symbol of renewal and the birth of a new life. It is also believed to be the day when day and night are equalized and it is actually not far from the spring equinox (19th, 20th or 21st depending on the year). 

Kazakhs consider the beginning of the new year “Ulystyk uly kuni” – a great day for the people. Celebration traditions are aimed to show the best human qualities – openness, cordiality, mercy. Commonly, on Nauryz, Kazakhstanis wear nice clothes, go out, praise each other, have fun, sing and hold folk games. During Nauryz, you can also observe some national competitions such as horse races, aitys (akyns’ competitions), etc.

Nauryz kozhe is a traditional food during Nauryz. The dish combines seven ingredients: smoked meat, milk, millet, wheat, corn, water and butter. Today the recipe for “kozhe” is changing by including more ingredients in addition to the traditional ones depending on the cook’s taste.

Orthodox Christmas - January 7th

An official holiday in Kazakhstan since 2005, but not everyone celebrates it as only about 23% of the population of Kazakhstan are Orthodox Christian who celebrate the Orthodox Christian on the January 7th. 

Across the country, the Church bells chime and festive rituals are recited in Orthodox churches. The celebration starts with the visit to the churches with the the biggest Assumption Cathedrals located in Almaty and Astana. After the service, it is common for believers to visit relatives and friends, praising each other with gifts, sweets and special Christmas presents.

Almaty Ortodox church
Zharkent Orthodoz church is also colorful

Day of the capital - June 10th

Since Astana obtained the status of capital in 1998, Kazakhstan celebrated Capital Day in Kazakhstan on June 10. Whether it is a coincidence or not but 10th of June is also the birthday of the first and ex-president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Astana is the only capital in Central Asia that was built and developed after Independence. The northernmost capital of Central Asia, located in Euroasia, it blends elements of both East and West. The most fascinating architectural structure is The Palace of Peace, Reconciliation and Baiterek. In 1999, UNESCO recognized Astana as “The City of Peace”.

Day of capital Astana
Day of the capital in Astana in June

Day of Kazakhstan's First President - December 1st

Day of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is the official name of this holiday. It marks the first presidential elections that were held on December 1st, 1991 in Kazakhstan after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The day became an official  public holiday in 2011. 

The day marks the achievements of the first president and aims to strengthen the peace and harmony in Kazakhstan. Normally, it is celebrated with cultural events that are held throughout Kazakhstan and by the festive fireworks arranged in the evening in honor of the (ex) first president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Day of Kazakhstan's first president - Nursultan Nazarbaev

Kazakhstan Independence Day - December 16th

Kazakstan became independent from the Soviet Union on December 16, 1991. Since this day a new period began in the history of the country. Independence day is one of the primary holidays in Kazakhstanis which is celebrated with feasts and fireworks.

Kazakh man playing dombra and singing the song for woman in red on the green grass in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia
Eagle Hunter with his golden eagle

Best places to celebrate Kazakh national holidays

Page updated 4.1.2023

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