Ethnic minorities from Dobrogea region – Tatars

The Tatars are a nomadic community dispersed throughout history from the Mongolian plains to today’s Eastern Europe. Notably, they are also present today in Dobrogea, being descendants of the former Golden Horde since 1241. Tatar tradition and culture represent a significant part of the Dobrogean landscape, especially when it comes to confessional relations. The Tatars were named the main representatives of Islam in Romania, numbering up to 19 thousand believers, in the 2011 census.

Their customs are strongly influenced by religion, marking with great importance Islamic holidays such as Eid ul-Fitr (Tatar: Oraza bayram) or Eid al-Adha (Tatar: Qurban bayram), but one of the Tatar customs that does not have its origin in the confession, but rather in Central Asian origin is the celebration of Nevruz (Tatar: Nawrez). Nawrez is a celebration dedicated to fire and purification that coincides, in the Iranian calendar, with the first day of the year.

In Dobrogea, the Spring Festival (as it is also known) takes place on March 21, marking the passing of the Spring Solstice. Usually, young people form groups and decorate a budded branch called Nawrez bayraq (Nawrez banner) with various scarves, then carol it from house to house to announce the arrival of spring. In turn, the local people also tie a scarf on the branch and reward the children with dyed eggs or money.

At the end of the day, tables spread out on the green grass are organized, where the ritual of jumping over the fire (Tatar: Ot atlamaq) can be performed. In it, the young people take turns jumping over the smoldering fire shouting “Awırlıq otqa, cengĭlĭk mağa!” – The burdens (n.r. to be of) fire, my joys (n.r. to be mine)! The ritual symbolizes rebirth and purification, thus preparing young people for the new year.

Tuzla- Constanța, 2023: Children putting ribbons in the nawrez bayraq