Nowruz: the Persian New Year

Laura Pisano

By POUYA MURMAHBOUB AND AMIR RAESI

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

Cultural celebrations and festivals are common to people all over the world. Often holidays bring families and communities together and introduce new generations to traditional food, dance, music, and crafts. Nowadays people remember Iran in terms such as oil, nuclear program, or sanctions, but underneath all of the political tension, the most popular celebration of great Persia is going to be celebrated.

The Nowruz, or Persian New Year celebration, is neither religious nor national in nature, nor is it an ethnic celebration. Jewish, Zoroastrian, Armenian, and Turkish Iranians along with Central Asians celebrate the Nowruz with the same enthusiasm and sense of belonging.

Nowruz marks the first day of spring in the Iranian calendar, around March 21, when the sun enters the first degree of Aries (vernal equinox). The festivities of Nowruz reflect the renewal of the Earth that occurs with the coming of spring and has been celebrated for over 3000 years. Nowruz also was officially registered on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

Persians start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes, flowers, and some other specific items. A few days before the arrival of Nowruz, most of people set  “Haft Sin” or the seven ‘S’s .The haft sin table includes seven specific items starting with the letter ‘S’ in the Persian alphabet. These items symbolically correspond to seven creations of Life: namely fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals, and humans. These items are a mirror symbolizing the sky, an apple symbolizing the Earth, candles symbolizing fire, rose water symbolizing water, sprouted wheat grass symbolizing plants, goldfish symbolizing animals, and painted eggs symbolizing humans and fertility.

One of the Nowruz representatives is a black-faced character clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat playing a tambourine and singing. During the last few weeks before Nowruz, Haji Firuz and his troupe of musicians appear on the streets all over the country to stimulate laughter and provide a good time.

On the night of the last Wednesday of the old year, people traditionally gather and light small bonfires in the streets and jump over the flames, while shouting an expression which means “my pain and sickness for you (the fire); your strength (health) for me.” The flames symbolically take away all of the unpleasant things that happened in the past year. This festival implicitly portrays the winning of light over the darkness.

Based on different regions, many special foods are prepared in these days. One of the most popular Nowruz dishes is fish served with special rice mixed with green herbs. Also many specific sweets and candy are served during the New Year. Combinations of sweets and money are given to children as a present, all of which creates an unforgettable experience.

Among all Persian ancient ceremonies, Nowruz has different aspects in every region of the country and has become real, fresher, and with more deeple understood. Nowruz repeats and renews everything, while also generating and reviving the nature and influences of Iranian creative soul, emotion, and thought.