Iran's Culture 14 May 2024 BY Maryam Mahmoudian

Sepandarmazgan | A Celebration of Love, Women and Earth

Forget about the roses and chocolates of Valentine's Day. In Iran, love is celebrated on Sepandarmazgan, a tradition with a history stretching back over 2,500 years.

This ancient festival, also spelled Esfandārmazgān or Espandegān, goes back to the Achaemenid Empire and is a special day for Iranians. Join us as we delve into Sepandarmazgan, exploring its customs, significance, and how it continues to hold a special place in Iranian hearts today.


What is the Meaning of Sepandarmazgan?

What is the Meaning of Sepandarmazgan

Sepandarmazgan, also known as Esfandarmazgan, is a Persian holiday that celebrates love, devotion, and kindness, with a special focus on honoring women.

The word "Sepandarmaz" itself comes from two parts: "Sepand" meaning pure and holy, and "Aramaiti" meaning humility and tolerance. This translates to "pure and holy humility".

Traditionally, Sepandarmazgan was seen as a day to honor women for their roles in family and society. Women were given gifts and shown appreciation, and even held a symbolic position of authority for the day.

The connection between Sepandarmazgan and women comes from the association of Sepandarmaz, the guardian of the earth, with fertility. Just like the earth provides for all living things, women are seen as nurturers and life-givers.

Furthermore, women were viewed as symbols of unconditional love and care for their children and husbands. This day served as a way to express gratitude for their love by showering them with love in return.

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History of Sepandarmazgan

History of Sepandarmazgan

Sepandarmazgan, a tradition rooted in ancient Persia's Zoroastrian beliefs, is a day dedicated to both women and the earth. Its origins lie in the unique calendar system of the time. Each day had a specific name, and once a month, a day would share the same name as the month itself. These days were cause for celebration.

For instance, the first day of every month was called "Ormazd," the second day of every month was the day of Bahman (representing health and good thoughts), which is the first attribute of God. The third day of every month bore the name "Ordibehesht," meaning "the best truth and purity," another of God's attributes. Similarly, the name for the fourth day of every month, "Shahrivar," signifies royalty and ideal ruler ship, a trait of God.

The fifth day of every month was called "Espand or Sepand," and the month of Spandarmad housed the festival of Sepandarmazgan. Spandarmazd, the deity of this month, is considered the guardian angel of both women and the earth.

This festival honors the nurturing and protective nature of the earth, likened to a loving mother who cares for all equally. In ancient times, Sepandarmazgan was thus seen as a symbol of motherhood and fertility.

Historical stories depict Sepandarmad as a virtuous and devoted wife, further emphasizing the connection between Sepandarmazgan and the concept of ideal womanhood. The festival's name itself has variations, including Sepandarmazgan, Sepandarmezgan, and Esfandgan.

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Ancient Rituals of Sepandarmazgan Celebration

Ancient Rituals of Sepandarmazgan Celebration

Sepandarmazgan wasn't just a day of celebration; it was filled with rituals expressing gratitude towards women. Families in ancient Iran went above and beyond to honor their wives, mothers, sisters, and other female relatives. Men would prepare elaborate meals and offerings, presenting them to the women they cherished in recognition of their hard work and dedication throughout the year.

Women also actively participated in the festivities. They donned new clothes and shoes, symbolizing a fresh start and appreciation for the day. Those recognized for their kindness, chastity, piety, and motherhood were showered with gifts from the men in their lives.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Sepandarmazgan was the temporary shift in household responsibilities. Women were relieved of their daily chores, allowing them to relax and enjoy the festivities. In their place, the men and boys of the family took over these duties, demonstrating their appreciation and creating a sense of shared responsibility.

Another name associated with Sepandarmazgan hints at a fascinating local ritual. "Mardgiran" translates roughly to "man-choosing," and it's believed to have been a custom practiced on this very day. Unmarried women of marriageable age were empowered to take charge of their future. During Mardgiran, they had the opportunity to select their husbands, a stark contrast to the arranged marriages prevalent at the time. This tradition adds another layer to Sepandarmazgan's significance, highlighting its role in empowering women.

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Sepandarmazgan Celebration Today

Sepandarmazgan Celebration Today

Sepandarmazgan continues to hold a special place in the hearts of Iranians today. While some traditions have evolved, the core message of honoring women and celebrating love remains strong. Sepandarmazgan promotes love, respect, and gratitude within families. It strengthens the bonds between men and women and fosters a sense of unity.

On this day, the focus is on honoring women. Traditionally, men and boys present gifts to the women in their lives, expressing appreciation for their love and dedication. These gifts can range from flowers and sweets to more personal items. Social media has added a new dimension to Sepandarmazgan. People share messages of love and appreciation for the women in their lives online.

Specific foods might not be traditionally associated with Sepandarmazgan, but celebratory meals are common. Families gather to enjoy delicious dishes, strengthening bonds and creating joyful memories.

Unlike Valentine's Day, which often focuses on romantic love between couples, Sepandarmazgan celebrates a broader spectrum of love. It's a day to express love and appreciation for mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and all the women who enrich our lives.

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Sepandarmazgan Date

Sepandarmazgan Date

As we mentioned earlier, Sepandarmazgan traditionally falls on the fifth day of the Esfand month. However, determining the exact date in modern times requires navigating two different calendar systems:

  1. Yazdgerdi Calendar: In ancient Iran, Sepandarmazgan was celebrated on the 5th of March according to this calendar. This system had 30 days per month with five additional days added at the year's end. Each day had a unique name, and celebrations often occurred when the day's name matched the month's name.
  2. Solar Calendar: This is the current official calendar in Iran. It aligns more closely with the solar year and has months with varying lengths (29 or 30 days) unlike the Yazdgerdi calendar. In the solar calendar, Sepandarmazgan falls on the 29th of Bahman.

The difference arises because the Yazdgerdi calendar doesn't perfectly align with the solar year. Additionally, the solar calendar has months with 31 days, which creates a mismatch with the 30-day Yazdgerdi system.

For Sepandarmazgan 2025, here's the breakdown based on the two calendars:

  1. 5th of Esfand (Yazdgerdi Calendar): This would translate to February 23rd, 2025.
  2. 29th of Bahman (Solar Calendar): This falls on February 17th, 2025.

In some regions with a strong Zoroastrian heritage, Sepandarmazgan is celebrated five days before the month of Esfand (March according to the Gregorian calendar). This tradition persists even in areas that have transitioned from Zoroastrianism to Islam, such as the Posht Kooh area of Yazd province in the Pandar village.

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Final Takeaway

Sepandarmazgan celebration offers a beautiful opportunity to honor the women in your life, express gratitude, and reconnect with Iranian cultural heritage. Whether you choose February 17th or February 23rd, prepare a gift, share a meal together, or simply express your appreciation –  let the spirit of Sepandarmazgan fill your heart with love and appreciation.

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