Nowruz (“New Day”) is the Iranian New Year, or Persian New Year, and marks the first day of spring.
The holiday started 3,000 years ago in ancient Persia (modern day Iran), derived from Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions. Important themes are reverence for nature, respect for family and community, doing good deeds, and forgiveness.
In the week prior to the new year, rituals take place that symbolize a fresh start and the triumph of good over evil. Families conduct spring cleaning as a symbol of forgiving others. Some participate in a fire-jumping ritual, which was a traditional Zoroastrian rite of purification, singing, “Fire, you give me your redness and energy, and I give you my paleness and sickness.”
Children, donning new threads and shoes, participate in a tradition similar to trick-or-treating. Visiting their neighbors, they bang pots and pans to get rid of the past year’s bad luck, and ask for auspicious treats. The customary goodies are an assortment of seven dried nuts and fruits: pistachios, roasted chick peas, almonds, hazelnuts, figs, apricots, and raisins. Yum. There’s often an Uncle Nowruz, who, similar to Santa Claus, wears a white beard and brings toys and gifts to kids.
The Haft Seen
This is a traditional table setting essential to Nowruz. On it are seven things that start with the letter “s” in Farsi.
The themes of Nowruz are also celebrated through these symbolic foods. Usually they include:
• sabze (sab zuh), wheat, barley or lentil sprouts grown in a shallow plate: rebirth
• samanu (sah mah noo), pudding made from wheat germ: wealth
• senjed (sen jed), dried fruit of the lotus/oleaster tree: love
• sîr (seer), garlic: health
• sîb (seeb), apples: earth, beauty and health
• somaq (so moch), sumac berries: sunrise
• serkeh (sir keh), vinegar: patience
We recommend clicking through that above photo for more illuminating details on Haft-Seen. For more on Nowruz, check out this video featuring Nasrin Naraghi, who dishes on history, customs, food, and more.
Tell us, how do you observe this special holiday?
This post made possible by Caren, Manager of School and Teacher Programs
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