Persian New Year
Each year beginning in February, I hear my Persian girlfriends talk about celebrating Nowruz and how excited they are for this time of year. It wasn’t until I began writing my book that I decided to investigate this tradition a little closer to discover the unique meaning that goes into this special Persian holiday. It reminded me of a quote that said,
“God didn’t give us eyes in the back of our head because we are not supposed to look back.” unknown
I had to remind myself of this after learning about the wonderment of Nowruz, which, for a moment, tempted me to regret all of the years I had missed celebrating this festive occasion with my friends. But it’s a new day to begin again and this year I will celebrate. After all, that’s what Nowruz is all about.
Nowruz is the traditional celebration of the Persian New Year. Nowruz translates to “New Day” and was created to celebrate the beginning of spring. Nowruz is celebrated in many countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and India to name a few. It is estimated that about 190 million people across the world celebrate Nowruz, which is more of a secular holiday than it is a religious one.
Nowruz usually falls on March 21st and the celebrations begin at then the exact moment of the spring equinox when the sun passes above the equator, or when night and day are the same lengths. This holiday marks the first day of the Persian calendar.
One of the most significant traditions that Persians follow during this special season is setting up a Nowruz table called Haft-seen. This symbolic table includes seven objects that begin with the letter “S” because seven is considered a lucky number in Iran. Although other countries may celebrate this tradition differently, in Iran a typical Nowruz table might include these items:
- Sabzeh: A dish of wheat or lentils to represent rebirth.
- Samanu: An Iranian sweet paste made from germinated wheat representing the renewal of Nature.
- Seeb: Apple which represents health and beauty
- Senjeb: The fruit of the lotus tree representing love.
- Seer: Fresh garlic bulbs to represent medicine or good health.
- Somaq: A Persian spice representing sunrise and light overcoming darkness
- Serkeh: Vinegar representing age and patience
Preparing for Nowruz begins long before the holiday begins, starting with the spring cleaning of a home. This tradition is called “Khoneh Takooni” in Farsi and translates to “Shaking of the house.” Other Nowruz traditions include:
- Shopping for new clothes to celebrate Nowruz so they can look their best for the new year
- Painting eggs, which represents fertility
- The Persian festival of fire called Chaharshanbe Suri celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. The celebration begins in the evening where people make bonfires and jump over them, representing purification and letting go of sickness for good health.
Finally, on March 21st or March 22nd depending on where in the world Nowruz is being celebrated, the family comes together to celebrate the Persian New Year.
Nowruz Mubarak – Happy Nowruz