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Expat Exchange - Christmas in Uzbekistan
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Bukhara, Uzbekistan


Christmas in Uzbekistan

By Betsy Burlingame

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: Explore the festive traditions of Christmas and New Year in Uzbekistan, where the celebrations are marked by special foods, church ceremonies, the exchange of gifts, and an array of cultural customs.

The holiday season in Uzbekistan offers a unique experience, blending local customs with festive traditions. For expats and digital nomads spending their first Christmas and New Year's in this Central Asian nation, the period is marked by a mix of the country's rich cultural tapestry and the universal spirit of the holidays.

Christmas and New Year's Celebrations in Uzbekistan

While Uzbekistan is predominantly a Muslim country, Christmas and New Year's are celebrated by the local Christian community and enjoyed by people of various backgrounds. The New Year's holiday, in particular, is widely observed with much fanfare. Festivities for both occasions are characterized by family gatherings, festive meals, and, in urban areas, vibrant decorations and lights that add a touch of magic to the cold winter days.

Local Traditions and Festive Events

Leading up to the holidays, cities like Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara come alive with decorations and lights. New Year's trees, or "Yolka," are put up in homes and public spaces, similar to Christmas trees in the West. Events such as concerts, fairs, and performances are common, with people enjoying the celebratory atmosphere. The Alisher Navoi National Park in Tashkent, for instance, becomes a hub of holiday activity, with its own winter market and ice-skating rink.

The Uzbek Version of Santa Claus

In Uzbekistan, the figure of Grandfather Frost, known locally as "Qor Bobo," takes the place of Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Accompanied by his granddaughter, Snegurochka, he is said to bring gifts to children. The exchange of presents is a part of the celebration, with a focus on tokens of love and appreciation rather than extravagant gifts. Handicrafts, sweets, and books are common gift choices among Uzbeks during this time.

Festive Foods and Desserts

The holiday table in Uzbekistan is a spread of traditional dishes and sweets. For New Year's, "Olivier salad," a type of Russian potato salad, is a staple, alongside "somsa," pastries filled with meat or vegetables. Desserts such as "pahlava," a sweet pastry, and "nisholda," a whipped confection, are enjoyed by families. The festive meals are a time for togetherness and indulgence in the rich flavors of Uzbek cuisine.

Christmas Eve and Day Customs

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are quieter affairs, with the Christian community attending church services. The Russian Orthodox Church, which serves a portion of the Christian population, celebrates Christmas on January 7th, following the Julian calendar. Services are held on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with many attending the nighttime liturgy to mark the holy occasion.

Church Attendance and Religious Observance

For those who observe the religious aspect of Christmas, attending church is an important part of the holiday. The Orthodox Christian community, as well as Catholics and Protestants in Uzbekistan, have their own places of worship where they gather for services. While not the majority, these communities come together to celebrate with prayer, song, and fellowship.

Hotspots for Holiday Festivities

Certain towns and neighborhoods in Uzbekistan are particularly known for their festive spirit. In Tashkent, the area around Amir Timur Square is renowned for its elaborate decorations and New Year's tree. The city of Bukhara, with its ancient architectural backdrop, offers a picturesque setting for holiday markets where one can find traditional crafts, warm drinks, and local treats.

For expats and digital nomads in Uzbekistan, the holiday season is an opportunity to witness the country's cultural diversity and participate in local customs. While Christmas may not be celebrated with the same fervor as in predominantly Christian countries, the warmth and hospitality of the Uzbek people, combined with the joyous atmosphere of New Year's, make for a memorable end to the year. From the twinkling lights of Tashkent to the festive markets of Bukhara, the holidays in Uzbekistan are a time of community, celebration, and the sharing of good wishes for the year ahead.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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