Turlock’s Assyrian community will celebrate its culture’s 6,768th New Year this weekend, highlighting the rich history of a population that has provided leadership in the city for well over 100 years.
The Assyrian New Year Festival was the most prodigious celebration in ancient Assyria, and celebrates the new year based on the start of spring. Following the first day of spring, the Assyrians would honor the rebirth of the natural world with a multi-day festival called Akitu — a 12-day celebration that isn’t quite possible for those celebrating in modern times, Turlock Assyrian American Civic Club president Sam David said.
“It was once a 12-day celebration where each day they would thank the Lord for the new harvest coming in and pray for the ground to be strong and fertile,” David said. “Our ancestors celebrated the full 12 days, but for us here it’s kind of difficult because things have changed — people have work, and other responsibilities.”
Instead, the celebration is scheduled for one day in Turlock. This weekend’s celebration will feature a day parade on West Main Street, a flag raising ceremony to follow and a celebration at the civic club to end the night.
“Spring gives new hope and new life, and that’s the celebration part of it,” David said.
Various Assyrian organizations in town participate in the parade, like churches and businesses, David added, but the Assyrian community would love to see other participants as well — not just those that share their heritage.
“We’re hoping to build it up and grow it for next year and not just have Assyrian businesses participate,” David said. “The start of spring isn’t just for Assyrians — it’s for all of us.”
The flag raising ceremony is set to take place after the parade at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, where the parade ends, and symbolizes the connection that the Assyrian community feels with their home.
“We’re part of this community and we adopted the United States as our home country,” David said. “Raising the Assyrian flag in Turlock builds a lot of morale within our community that we’re part of the greater good.”
David expects around 1,000 people to attend the parade, set to begin at 10 a.m. on March 24. The parade will head west on West Main Street between the train tracks and Broadway, then will travel north on Broadway and conclude at the fairgrounds.
The flag raising ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. but will take place immediately after the parade on the corner of West Canal Drive and Broadway in front of the fairgrounds main office.
“We have a great community, and this is an opportunity to show the unity that we have here with everything that’s going on in the world,” David said. “Everyone can coexist and be happy together. We don’t have to agree on everything – especially religious beliefs – but we can be neighbors.”