Nowruz, meaning “the new day”, is the Persian New Year’s celebration. Nowruz is celebrated and observed by the following nations and people:
The celebration of Nowruz begins exactly with the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, usually between the 20th to 21st of March. This year the new year starts March 20 at 12: 01: 56 Paris time. The celebration lasts for 13 days, and entails many traditions and rituals. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3000 years, and begun in the reign of the Achaemenids, 550–330 B.C., where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the Emperor on Nowruz.. In 2009 Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin.
Families prepare for Nowruz weeks in advance. The preparations starts with a major house cleaning, called Khaneh Tekani, which most of the time includes painting and general cleaning of ones house. The next thing in line is growing seeds in water, sabzeh, which is a symbolic act that shows rebirth and welcoming of the spring. Getting closer to Nowruz families arrange their Haftsin which is a collection of at least seven items that starts with the letter “S”. Each has a symbolic meaning. The list includes:
The HaftsÄ«n items are:
- sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
- samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
- senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
- sÄ«r – garlic – symbolizing healing powers
- sÄ«b – apples – symbolizing beauty and health
- somaq – sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
- serkeh – vinegar – symbolizing age and patience.
Other items on the HaftsÄ«n table might include:
- Sonbol – Hyacinth (plant)
- Sekkeh – Coins – symbolizes wealth
- Aajeel – dried nuts, berries and raisins
- lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
- a mirror (symbolizes purity and honesty)
- decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
- a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life).
- rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
- a holy book (e.g., the Avesta, Qur’an,or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz)
The start of the new year literally means a new start in life. This means an end to old hostilities, fights and disagreements among friends, family members and neighbours. It is also customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. Typically, shortly before the arrival of the new year family members, wearing their new attire, gather around the HaftsÄ«n table, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring /the new year. As the clock strikes that signifies the advent of the new year Families start wishing each other a happy and prosperous new year. At that time gifts are exchanged, which normally includes older family members giving new money bills to younger members. Later in the day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the younger relative should visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. The visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on their list. A typical visit is around 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time. Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and special nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items with tea or sherbet. Families spend the first 12 days of the new year visiting each other. The 13th day, Sizdah Bedar, is the end of the Nowruz celebrations. It is marked by families going out of their homes to picnic outdoors, to connect with nature and to dispose of the sabzeh in a natural running body of water. Young people wishing to be married in the coming year, make knots in the grass that has grown from the sprouts while wishing to be blessed with a wife or a husband.
Another very important tradition related to Nowruz is ChahÄrshanbe Suri, “festival of fire”. It is celebrated the night before the last Wednesday of the year. This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad). The symbolism behind the rituals is traced back to Zoroastrianism, the old religion in the ancient Persia. On ChahÄrshanbe Suri people go into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing Zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man, which literally translated, means “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My paleness (pain, sickness and weakness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me.” The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or their spirit, in preparation for new year.
The food that is normally served on the new year’s day is Sabzi Polo Mahi, a dish that combines smoked fish, rice, and herbs.