Iran's Culture 15 Sep 2022 BY Arash Morshed

What Is the Iranian New Year? All About Nowruz!

One of the richest cultures in the world, Persian culture, has had a significant impact on other cultures as well.

Iran is sometimes regarded as one of the cradles of civilization, and its influence on many cultures and customs can still be seen today. Nowruz is one of the most lovely traditions that has been observed for more than three thousand years.

The first day of spring is March 20 in the Northern Hemisphere. But it is also the start of a new year for over 300 million individuals worldwide, called Nowruz. You may ask: "What is the Nowruz meaning?" Nowruz means "new day."

In Iran, where the solar calendar starts with the vernal equinox, Norooz is a holiday indicating the start of spring and the first day of the year.

More than 3,000 years have passed since Norouz was first celebrated in Iran and the Persian diaspora. Its origins are in Zoroastrianism, a faith that was prevalent in ancient Persia and saw the coming of spring as a victory over the night. Through the historical diaspora of Persian people, the feast survived the Islamic conquest of Persia in the seventh century and the decrease in the prominence of Zoroastrianism, regarded as the oldest religion in the world.


What Is Nowruz?

nowruz new year

On the day of the spring equinox, Nowruz celebrates the end of the previous year and the start of the new one. Instead of starting at the stroke of midnight, the new year really starts the second the equinox begins. The equinox often occurs between March 19 and 21; However, some features of Nowruz continue to influence Persian culture for weeks before the event and even a few weeks following it.

No one is certain of the precise dates of Nowruz. The most accurate predictions fall within a range of 3,000 years. But the most important point about Nowruz's history is that it has its roots in Zoroastrianism, a pre-Christian and pre-Islamic religion practiced in ancient Persia. Zoroastrianism has a long history and is not limited to Iran or the several Persian Empires that have existed; that is why Norouz is also commemorated by millions of people who are not Iranian across the world.

After millennia of development, Nowruz is still too cherished, all-encompassing, and ingrained in Persian culture to be disregarded. Additionally, many customs are tied to the festival because it has been celebrated for so long. However, there are a few fundamental principles that almost everyone who celebrates Nowruz adheres to, whether in Iran or beyond.

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The Story Behind Iranian Nowruz

nowruz story

The Nowruz festival has been commemorated at least since the 11th century A.D. The history of King Jamshid is included in the genesis narrative for Nowruz in the Shahnameh, also known as the "Book of Kings," a work that predates the first century.

The fourth monarch of an imaginary dynasty, King Jamshid, is introduced as the kindest and most learned King of Persia, which at the time of its establishment included the area from what is now modern Turkey to Pakistan. Zoroastrian scriptures from the first century also make reference to Jamshid.

The Shahnameh narrates the tale of a king who had a keen awareness of the earth's cycles and his subjects. As the earth tried to recover after the fall harvests, King Jamshid saw that his subjects fell into darkness throughout the long, gloomy winter months.

The King wished to designate that moment as the beginning of the new year since it was a time of fresh starts for both people and the earth when spring eventually appeared, and the planet started to bloom after the healing season of winter.

However, King Jamshid also saw that during those gloomy winter months, many of his subjects had begun to dispute, and injustice had the potential to seize control. Shab-e-Charshanbeh Souri, or "Scarlet Wednesday," is a celebration the King chose to hold to commemorate the start of Nowruz.

The Zoroastrians, who revered fire as a symbol of enduring health and strength, introduced the custom of jumping over a chain of fires as part of the event. Jumping over the fires to rid oneself of the previous year's physical, mental, and societal problems is the notion underlying Charshanbeh-Souri. It serves as a means of getting ready for Nowruz's rebirth. It is also a season of repentance. It is possible to mend the rifts that threaten to split families worldwide by working together to jump over the flames.

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How to Prepare for Nowruz?

persian new year

Although some rituals differ from place to place as different cultures add their own features, the core principle is the same: a festival of spring and a time for rebirth and regeneration.

Sumalak, a dense pudding made from wheatgrass, is prepared continuously across the Central Asian nations while women sing folk melodies and stir enormous pots while doing so. Outdoor celebrations highlight nomadic customs and games, including archery, wrestling, and horse racing.

Weeks before spring officially arrives, Iran begins preparing for the Nowruz rituals, which include cleaning the house (khaneh takani). Families also cultivate Sabzeh, which might be wheat, barley, mung beans, or lentils.

The dish is put on the Haft-seen table, which is the focal point of Nowruz celebrations when the greens grow after a couple of weeks. Six other symbolic objects, all beginning with the Persian letter "sin" or S, are placed next to it. Seven is the result, which is a holy number in Zoroastrianism.


What is 7 Sin?

haftsin persian

The custom of grouping seven symbolic things together whose names begin with S (or seen in Persian) is known as Haft-Sin or Haft-seen, which is one of the Nowruz traditions. These seven elements, which are Nowruz table items, are joined by other symbols, and collectively they form a 7 sin. These artifacts were once placed on a mantel or a specially made fabric resembling a tablecloth, known as a "Sofreh." Because of this, Haft-Sin is often known as "Sofreh Haft-Sin."

Nowadays, most people choose to set up a table rather than utilize a mantel or place it on the floor. However, other elements of this custom have mostly been held intact, and many people today continue to do as their parents and grandparents have for many years. Iranians begin to prepare the appropriate goods before the new year, and after their Haft-Sin is set, it will remain in their homes until the last day of the 13-day new year's celebration.

Certain Nowruz symbols characterize a Haft-Sin; however, they change significantly in various regions of the nation. The Nowruz symbols are Sabzeh (wheatgrass cultivated in a dish), Samanu (sweet pudding prepared from wheat germ), Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree), Serkeh (Persian vinegar), Seeb (apple), Seer (garlic), and Somaq (sumac).

Iranians typically include these items as well as extras like a mirror, candle, colored eggs, coin, a basin of water with an orange floating in it, goldfish, hyacinth, and traditional pastries like Nokhodchi.

Another important item is a "book of wisdom," such as the Quran, the Avesta, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, or Hafiz's divan. Older family members open the book at the start of the new year and examine it for advice or resolutions for the following year. In addition, there is "Eidi," the time when elders give money to younger people and kids. Between the book's pages, they often tuck new bills, which they unwrap at the start of the new year and present to family members as gifts. 


What is Haft-Seen History?

haftsin story

Haft-sin was Haft-sheen (seven S.H. letters) in the Kayanid dynasty period, and the primary element included Sharab (red wine). After the Islamic invasion of Persia, wine was substituted with Serkeh (vinegar) since it is seen as a sin in Islam. Subsequently, the other elements were changed with other substances beginning with the letter S. The true meaning of seven was to stand for the "Seven Eternal Laws," which embody Zarathushtra's teachings. It served as a means of preserving and functioning as a reminder of Zarathushtra's teachings.


What is The Meaning of Nowruz Table Items (Haft-Seen)?

nowrooz table

Every element in Haft-Sin represents a Persian cultural concept:

  1. The Sabzeh represents rebirth and rejuvenation in nature.
  2. Senjed refers to affection and love.
  3. Samanu is a symbol of life's sweetness and fertility.
  4. The apple, or Seeb, represents beauty and good health.
  5. Vinegar, or Serkeh, represents wisdom and patience.
  6. Sunrise and the spice of life are represented by Somaq, which is the crushed spice of berries.
  7. Garlic (Seer) is for your health.


The Other Nowruz Table Items Concepts Are:

elements of haftsin

  1. The goldfish and water bowl symbolize energy and vitality. Goldfish also represents the last month of the Persian Calendar (Esfand). As the last month of the Persian calendar approaches, the goldfish serves as a reminder that the year is changing and turning.
  2. The mirror represents the sky and self-reflection.
  3. The candles illuminate Haft-sin and life as well.
  4. Painted and colored eggs present fertility.
  5. People place coins in their Haft-Sin in hopes of attracting money and success.

When you analyze all of these things at once, it is clear why Haft-seen is a significant part of the start of the Iranian new year. Similar to how the earth begins a new life with the approach of spring, each of these components represents a magnificent concept and gives us the freshness of new life.


How Do Iranians Celebrate New Year?

celebrating norooz

In the weeks leading up to Nowruz, bonfires are made and lighted on the streets for four Tuesdays as part of the festivities. People celebrate the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbe Suri) on the final Tuesday of the month by jumping over bonfires; this is thought to bring the new year health and luck. Iranians spend Nowruz night with their families. Traditional presents are always brought when people visit one other's homes during the Nowruz holidays.

Street celebrations are also common. People crowd the streets to watch and participate in traditional poetry, music, and dance performances, which play a significant part in the celebrations. Conventional sports are also well-liked. They frequently include wrestling or horseback riding.

Amoo Nowruz, also known as Uncle Nowruz, is the Iranians' equivalent of Santa Claus, and he has a little, jovial jester working for him.

The second character, Haji Firooz, appears to bestow good wishes at the Persian New Year. He is shown wearing blackface. Through the use of shoe polish or a soot-and-fat concoction, the performers darken their faces. Charcoal was frequently utilized in the past. They depict a mythological figure from Iranian folklore whose ancestry is unclear. According to specific traditional stories, he was a figure guarding the everlasting flame of the ancient Zoroastrians; Another claims that Haji Firooz, who performed at New Year's in the Sassanid era, was actually a black slave (224 to 651 AD). The most likely explanation is that he was one of the two million or more enslaved Black people who, according to estimates, were transported to Iran from Africa during the 19th-century Indian Ocean slave trade.


What Foods Are Served During Nowruz?

sabzi polo and fish

Although jumping flames and pot-banging seem appealing, the foods served at the Iranian New Year are superior. With feasts of stews, spicy meals, and decadent cakes and pastries, Persian cuisine, which is already renowned for its range of grilled meats and fluffy rice, bids farewell to the previous year.

Herbs are the main factor. Fresh mint, tarragon, basil, and other green herbs are sprinkled over various recipes, including fish, meat, rice, noodles, and beans.

The primary Nowruz cuisine is Sabzi Polo Mahi, which consists of fried fish served with green herb-infused rice. Dolmeh Barg is another, which consists of cooked beef and grains wrapped in grape leaves. And one of Iran's most well-known stews, Fesenjan, includes meat—typically chicken but occasionally duck—in a pomegranate and walnut sauce.

The delicious list is endless. The main significance of the Nowruz meal is that it is consumed with loved ones, close friends, and neighbors.


How Long Does Nowruz Last?

13 bedar

Sizdah Bedar, which may be interpreted as either "trying to get rid of 13" (a bad luck sign) or "to hit the road," marks the conclusion of the celebrations 13 days following the New Year.

On Sizdah Bedar, people picnic in parks, open fields, and plains while bringing the carefully cultivated Sabzeh with them. They throw the Sabzeh into the nearby river or areas to represent returning to nature.

Some people believe that if you make a wish and take pieces of Sabzeh and tie them into knots on Sizdah Bedar, your desire comes true in the new year and before the next Sizdah Bedar. Try it and see what happens!


How to Pronounce Nowruz Mobarak?

You may ask: "How to say Happy New Year in Persian?" The following are some popular expressions you will hear among Persians in the days leading up to Nowruz and for a few weeks after it:

  1. Nowruz Mobarak! (Happy Nowruz!)
  2. Sal-e No Mobarak! (Happy New Year!)
  3. Eyd e Shoma Mobarak! (Happy Eyd Nowruz!)
  4. Nowruz Pirouz! (Happy Nowruz!)

Nowruz Mobarak is the most common expression among Iranian people. Nowruz Mubarak's meaning, as mentioned before, is Happy Nowruz, and you can use it in both formal and informal situations.


What is Nowruz in Islam?

noruz in islam

Nowruz's spring holiday, which originated in Iran, officially begins at the precise time of the vernal equinox.

Persian New Year has not changed since the advent of Islam and its peaceful coexistence with various religious practices and festivities, including those practiced by the Iranian people. The magnitude of these celebrations was only diminished when Iranians gradually converted to Islam.

Iranians attempted to rediscover their old signs and symbols through Islamic characters over time when some of their practices and traditions went counter to earlier beliefs; in other words, they blended Iranian tradition with Islamic ideology.

According to Islamic beliefs, Nowruz marks the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Prophet Mohammad (S), the day of Ghadeer, and the return of The Lord of the Time, Imam Mahdi (aj). On the other hand, according to ancient Iranian religion, Nowruz marks the creation of mankind and the day on which the Creator completed the world's creationworld's creation.

The continued observance of Nowruz throughout the Islamic era may also be linked to the Persians' ongoing desire to maintain their historical culture, in addition to Islam's non-oppositional stance toward the ceremonies of Nowruz and additional confirmation of it.

It would have been challenging to separate Nowruz's ancient Iranian origins from its Islamic rituals because the Safavids used an Islamic design for the holiday. The big festival of Nowruz had a certain grandeur in the Abbasid and Safavid palaces, and Islam perfumed it with its traditions. Additionally, the preparation of the "seven S," which is one of the most iconic Nowruz symbols, has both ancient Persian and Islamic traditions.


Where is Nowruz Celebrated?

nowruz in asia

Many nations with a significant Persian cultural impact, including Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, and portions of Central Asia, celebrate Nowruz. Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, as well as Iranians, Shi'ites, and Parsis on the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora, all commemorate Nowruz. Iranian communities also celebrate Nowruz across the United States and Europe, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Toronto, Cologne, and London. Nowruz is observed as the Iranian New Year Festival in Phoenix, Arizona.

The most significant Nowruz holiday in the United States is celebrated in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest Persian communities outside of Iran. There are daylong celebrations for everyone to enjoy. Almost every state in the country hosts a Nowruz festival.


Nowruz 2023 Date and Time

Nowruz 2023 will be at 21:24 on Monday, March 20; All times are in United Kingdom Time.
The date and time may vary in different regions and countries.


Bottom Line

The festivities of the Iranian New Year are centered on community, family, and profound regard for tradition, as is appropriate for Persian and Zoroastrian culture.

Nowruz and Iranian New Year is more of a celebration of being able to start fresh by wiping away the grief, dirt, and dust of the past than it is about a specific day. It's about shutting the book on one chapter and opening the next one with anticipation rather than dread. It's about the limitless options that a blank slate offers.

The desire to begin something fresh and better is as universal as they come, which may help to explain why Nowruz has not only survived but flourished through successive generations of turmoil and wealth.

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