Nowruz (translated literally as "New Day",originally "New Light") is the traditional celebration of the ancientAchaemenid Persian New Year which has been celebrated on the vernal equinox formore than 3,000 years.
Theancient Persians had a festival called “Farvardgan”which lasted ten days, and took place at the end of the solar year. In harmonywith the rebirth of nature, the Persian New Year Celebration, or NOWRUZ, alwaysbegins on the first day of spring. Nowruz ceremonies are symbolicrepresentations of two ancient concepts - the End and the Rebirth; or Good andEvil.
AZoroastrian symbol of Nowruz has been shown in: on the vernal equinox the powers of the eternally fighting bull (personifyingthe Earth) and lion (personifying the Sun) are equal.
The UnitedNations General Assembly recognized March 21 as the International Day ofNowruz, a festival of Persian origin that marks the beginning of a new year formore than 300 million people.
The UNEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization added Nowruz to itsRepresentative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, noting thefestival’s “affirmation of life in harmony with nature, the awareness of theinseparable link between constructive labor and natural cycles of renewal andthe solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life,”according to the Web site. (
A fewweeks before the New Year, Iranians clean and rearrange their homes. They makenew clothes, bake pastries and germinate seeds as sign of renewal. Theceremonial cloth is set up in each household. Troubadours, referred to as"Haji Firuz",disguise themselves with makeup and wear brightly colored (usually red) outfitsof satin. These Haji Firuz, singing and dancing, parade as a carnival throughthe streets with tambourines, kettle drums, and trumpets to spread good cheerand the news of the coming new year.
A majorpart of the New Year rituals is setting a special table with seven specificitems present, Haft Sin (Haft chin, seven crops before Islam). They oftenconsist of hyacinth "Sonbol", red apples "Seeb", the spicesumac "Somagh", garlic "Seer", vinegar "Serkeh",coins "Sekeh", the dried fruit of the oleaster tree "Senjed", and a dish of germinated wheat orbarley seeds "Sabzeh".
The hyacinth blooms in the springtime, symbolizing therebirth of nature. Red apples provide color as well as representing the FirstFruit, from the time of Adam and Eve and also symbolizing beauty and health.Sumac is said to be the representative of the color of sunrise, and garlic isbelieved to chase away evil spirits and symbolizing medicine. Vinegar is asymbol of age and patience, having originatedas grapes and undergone many transformations. The coins represent wealth andhopes for prosperity. And "Senjed" symbolizing love. The germinated seeds represent the fertility of the land inSpring.
Thefamily gathers around the table holding hands at the specific time of Equinox,which varies every year. As they wait, they place a sweet in their mouth and acoin in their hand. At the moment of transition into the New Year or "SalTahvil", family members embrace each other. A traditional meal is servedmade of steamed rice with chopped parsley, dill and chives served with fish,known as "Sabzi Polo Mahi".
"Sizdah Bedar" is the "thirteenthouting" and is the finale to the Nowruzcelebrations, when Persians symbolically renew their life. The thirteenth dayof the New Year is considered to be unlucky and in order to partake in a finalcleansing; people leave their homes and depart into the countryside. They spendthe whole day at picnics with the family, enjoying the fresh air. Single womentie blades of grass together, while wishing that in the coming year they willtie the knot in marriage. The planted seeds of "Sabzeh" are throwninto a flowing stream of water, symbolizing ongoing fertility.
Thusthe festivities are over and people are ready to return to work and to face theyear ahead.
Duringthe Nowruz holidays, people are expected to visit each another (mostly limitedto families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits, whichare usually reciprocated. Many Iranians will throw large Nowruz parties in acentral location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups offriends and family.