Persian New Year, Nowruz, starts on the first day of Spring. The exact beginning moment of Nowruz is calculated precisely every year at the stroke of the vernal equinox, when the sun crosses the equator. This year it will happen on March 20.
The term Nowruz is a Persian compound word. The first word “now” means new and the second word “ruz” means day; together they mean “New Day.” It is a secular festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years and enjoyed by people of several different faiths. The traditions of Nowruz were originated in Iran; however, it has been celebrated among people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Canada and the United States.
Families gather together around a ceremonial table known as the Haftseen for the countdown and observing the rituals. In every home, the haftseen table is decorated with seven items – since seven is considered a lucky number. Each item begins with the letter sin (s) in Persian, and each item represents a different symbol:
- Seeb (apple), representing beauty
- Seer (garlic), representing good health
- Serkeh (vinegar), representing patience
- Sonbol (hyacinth), representing spring
- Samanu (sweet pudding), representing fertility
- Sabzeh (sprouts), representing rebirth
- Sekeh (coins), representing prosperity
Other words beginning with the letter "s" can also be used, such as the spice sumac, its brilliant gold color representing the sunrise, or senjed, a dried fruit of the Lotus tree, representing love.
Haftseen tables can also include a religious or poetry book (representing Knowledge), a mirror and candles (reflecting into the future), a goldfish swimming in a bowl (representing life), painted eggs (representing fertility), and all kinds of sweets and fruits.
Nowruz is also a time for spring cleaning, buying new clothes, visiting friends and relatives and renewing bonds. Nowruz festivities lasts 13 days, and during this time schools are closed, and most offices are closed for the first four days. People attend different parties, visit their loved ones, relatives and friends, get together and travel. On the 13th day of the New Year, the celebrations finally end. Since the 13th is an unlucky day, entire families go on picnics and take with them the sprouts (sabzeh) from the haftseen table. The sabzeh is thrown into flowing water, symbolizing a "letting go" of the misfortunes of the coming year.
The spirit of Nowruz is reflected in the renewal of the earth, the flower blossoms, the beautiful colors of the spring, bringing hope and inspiration.
Blog by ICSC Co-Leader Haniyeh Zamani