• Shabnam Khademian-Watts

Persian New Year, Happy Nowrooz

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

It’s the beginning of Spring and that time of the year again to celebrate the Persian New Year called Nowruz, No-rooz, Nowrooz. But what is Nowrooz all about? Where does it originate from and what makes this holiday so special that comes around every spring?

Nowrooz, known as the Persian new year, is one of the most ancient celebrations in history and has been celebrated for around 4000 years in what is now Iran and in the extended cultural area known as Greater Iran. It is an ancient celebration with the spring equinox as the main event occurring on 20 or 21 March every year.

During ancient times, Persian kings greatly emphasised the importance of this event and invited people from around the empire who were of different ethnicities and followers of different religions, to the royal court for celebrations and receiving gifts. After thousands of years, Nowrooz remains to be the most important celebration for Iranians as well as for around 300 million people in the neighbouring countries of Iran, who together celebrate the arrival of spring and the rebirth of nature.

A time of rebirth and renewal, Nowrooz literally translates to 'new day’ and with the arrival of spring, brings with itself a real possibility of a new life.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 International Nowrooz Day in 2010. In 2016, it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Nowrooz highlights the fundamental contrasts of good and bad and the appreciation of good thoughts, good words and good deeds which are the holy words of Zoroastrianism. It is an ancient philosophical belief which has shaped the ethics and morals of mankind since the dawn of human civilisation.

Prior to Nowrooz, Iranian families start the yearly spring cleaning of their homes, after which they will prepare a ceremonial Nowrooz spread called Haftsin, meaning seven S's. They will put together seven symbolic items whose names begin with the letter “S” on the table spread together with other complementary items. The number seven has a sacred meaning in Persian philosophy and permeates many elements of the culture.

The symbolic meaning of the seven items is as follows:

Sabzeh – Sown wheat symbolises the rebirth of nature.

Samanu – Sweet pudding made of wheat sprouts symbolises the sweet moments of life.

Sib – Red apple symbolises beauty.

Senjed – Sweet silver berry symbolises love.

Sir – Garlic symbolises health.

Sumaq – The colour of this Persian spice symbolises the colour of dawn prior to sunrise and the victory of light over darkness.

Serkeh – Vinegar symbolises old age and patience.

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