All to Know about Nowruz the Persian New Year
Nowruz, Nowrouz, Novruz, Nawrouz, Nouruz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz. Whatever it is pronounced, the Persian New Year festival of Nowruz (the new day) is the most beautiful, largest and most colorful Iranian festival. This springtime celebration symbolizes the rebirth and the link between human and nature.
Described by the 11th-century Persian astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam as “the renewal of the world”, Nowruz dates back thousands of years at least to the Achaemenid era. Being one of the oldest festivals of mankind, now Nowruz is celebrated by millions of people.
Let us talk more about the origins and ceremonies of Nowruz.
When Is Nowruz?
As the oldest and most important Iranian festival, Nowruz rituals and customs are the celebration of the triumph of spring over winter symbolizing light over darkness, life over death and love over hate.
Nowruz, begins with the astronomical beginning of spring with the commencement of the Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox. It lasts for about two weeks, in which children have school holidays and everyday work is at a standstill. According to the Gregorian calendar, it is either on the 20th/21st March every year.
Which Countries Celebrate Nowruz?
Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins by coming from the Great Persia, Nowruz actually knows no borders. A total of 300 million people worldwide from diverse ethno-linguistic communities take part in the celebrations. The main celebration is in Iran, Central Asia and the Near and Middle East. But the festival also takes place in the Western Balkans, in the Caucasus and in the regions on the Black Sea.
It is an official holiday in the following countries: Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Families, friends and acquaintances meet to congratulate themselves and dine together.
How Do Persian Celebrate Nowruz And What Are The Traditions?
Nowruz as an important event is a complex of numerous rituals and ceremonies each one plays an important role in the symbolism.
Iranians love to buy new clothes and clean homes before Nowruz. During the Nowruz period, homage is also paid to the elderly who give sweets and coins to the little ones in order to bring luck.
To take part Nowruz ceremonies or have a dinner with an Iranian family take part in one of our Iran tours.
- Khaneh Tekani (Spring Cleaning)
As we move into the month of March, spring is more felt. The dark and cold days of winter are passing while brighter days of spring are promising. To respect this renewal, Iranians prepare to welcome spring and doing the extensive cleaning in the name of Khan-e Tekani. The carpets and curtains will be washed, the cupboards will get rid of unused materials to make space, the walls will be painted if they need. This process has both physical and spiritual benefits.
- Chahar-Shanbeh Suri (Wednesday Fire)
One of the most important and popular rituals of the Persian New Year is the so-called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri or the Wednesday Fire Festival of Nowruz.
On the eve of the last Wednesday before spring, many of the 300 million people jump over fire, chanting “Zardi ye man az to, sorkhi ye to az man!” Translated literally: “My weakness to you, your strength to me!”
- Amu Nowruz: Persian Santa Claus
Of course, the children should not miss out on the festive season. Similar to Santa Claus, especially in Iran “Amu Nowruz” (Uncle Nowruz) delights the little ones with gifts. The bearded man walks through the streets with his musician and dancing companion “Haji Firuz“. According to tradition, he approaches his beloved sleeping wife “Naneh Sarma” (Cold Mum) once a year and leave her again.
- The Last Day Of Nowruz Sizdah-Bedar: Escape From The Evil Spirits
Number 13 is an unlucky number in the Persian-speaking cultural area. After 12 days of celebrating Nowruz that it really deserves, on the day 13th, most families leave their homes to spend the day outdoors. After all, that day, traditionally, evil spirits haunted people in their homes. In addition to picnic material, the celebrants also have the “Sabzeh” from the Haft Seen table to give it back to the nature through the flowing water.
While wishing for whatever you want, knots are tied into the green. That should bring good luck. After the “Sizdah Bedar”, the celebrations end.
What Is In The Nowruz Table?
Haft Sin literally translated the “seven S” is the name of Nowruz table. A compulsory part of Nowruz is the “Sofreh” (tablecloth), which is decorated with seven symbolic elements. As the name suggests, the respective objects all begin with the Persian letter S. They are sometimes interpreted differently:
- “Sib” (apple): symbol for rebirth and health
- “Sabzeh” (green, often barley, wheat or lentil sprouts): symbol of liveliness
- “Serkeh” (vinegar): symbol of immortality
- “Senjed” (Persian olive): symbol of love and affection
- “Somaq” (Sumac): symbol for the taste of life
- “Sir” (garlic): symbol of protection
- “Samanu/Samanak” (sweet pudding made from wheat malt): symbol of blessing and relief
Additionally, optional elements are also added to make the table more beautiful:
Mirror (Ayineh), coins (Sekeh), candles (Sham’), colored eggs (Tokhm-e morgh-e rangi), a goldfish in a glass (Mahi ghermez) and a holy script (Ketab) which can be the divan by the well-known Persian poet Hafez, the Qoran, the Bible, the Avesta or the Torah.
What Do You Eat In Nowruz?
From the first day of Nowruz celebrations, people visit each other’s house and significantly, homage is paid to the elderly. People gather together, eat the specific foods and sweets associated with Nowruz mainly pastries, sweets, sherbets, nuts and fruits.
There are two main things that accompany the entire festival: family visits and sweets. The sweets and dishes may differ based on the customs of the regions but generally some of the sweets are Sohan, Noghl and Gaz, Baghlava, Nan berenji (rice cookies), chickpea cookies, almond cookies, walnut cookies.
Some of the more popular Nowruz dishes include: Sabzi Polo Mahi (Rice tinted vivid green with herbs and served with fried fish), Kookoo Sabzi (Persian herbed omelet), Ash-e Reshteh
How Do You Greet And Wish Nowruz In Persian?
Let us teach you how to correctly greet your friends over New Year, and wish them well with the Persian New Year wishes.
- Nowruz Pirooz- means ‘victorious Nowruz’.
- Eid-e shomā mobārak- means ‘holiday be joyous’.
- Nowruz mobārak- means ‘happy New Year’.
- Sāl-e nō mobārak- the literal translation of ‘happy new year’.
- Sad sāl bé in sālhā- means ‘there be 100 more blissful years’.
Nowruz UNESCO World Heritage
Since 2009, Nowruz has been part of the Oral and intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO. The focal point of the festival is the “affirmation of life in harmony with nature, the awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labor and natural cycles of renewal and the solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life”, as stated in the justification for inclusion in the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“The festival of Nowruz unites the individuals and peoples of the 12 countries that together nominated the festival for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to celebrate values of sharing and harmony.”
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day of Nowruz
To visit the UNESCO world heritage sites in Iran, check Iran UNESCO World Heritage Tour.
Nowruz And Persepolis
Although the word Nowruz is not recorded in Achaemenid inscriptions, there is a detailed account by Xenophon of a Nowruz celebration taking place in Persepolis and the continuity of this festival in the Achaemenid tradition. Herzfeld also believed that Persepolis was made for special ceremonies, most importantly Nowruz when the satraps (the representatives of the provinces of the empire) came to deliver their tributes to the king of kings.
In Tachar palace you can see one particular bas-relief, a lion biting a bull, the passage from winter to spring or the symbol of Nowruz.
Regardless of those who have ruled over Iran, there is something in Persepolis that has remained to this date, the Persian New Year. Iranians continue to go to Persepolis to celebrate Nowruz as in the times of the Achaemenid kings.
Nowruz 2020 Under The Shade Of Corona Virus
Having said all, Nowruz is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. The streets and Bazaars have to be often crowded in the last days to Nowruz. During this busiest time of the year, Bazaars are full with the many people who want to buy new cloths, pastries and preparing the Haft seen. In line with the traditions of Nowruz, people gather together in each other’s houses and enjoy the company.
Sadly, due to the spread of the respiratory disease COVID-19, events are currently being canceled and public life restricted. The coronavirus closed many businesses and paralyzed the production of many companies. It has also its gloomy impact on this event of Nowruz 1399, the last year of this millennium. The Iranians are supposed to have accepted this Nowruz is going to be totally different. The bazaars are far from having the usual congestion before the Nowruz. People selected to stay at home in this time of joy. It is the calmest and saddest Nowruz that Iran has lived in for years but the Iranians look for the brighter days in near future.
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