Public events and festivals in Iran fall into two main categories: national occasions and religious ones. Taking part in each of these events can be interesting and enlightening as they reflect different social and cultural aspects of Iranian society.
The national events have roots in Iran’s ancient history and its rich culture. Iranians have marked these occasions since thousands of years ago as a source of national pride and identity. Many of these events are closely tied to nature and the change of seasons.
Nowruz is an ancient celebration of the rebirth of nature at the exact astronomical beginning of the spring. Today, Nowruz is the most important national event. The occasion, which usually falls on March 21, is also marked by several other nations in the region.
Iranians have their own traditions and customs when it comes to celebrating Nowruz. They decorate their homes with a Haft-seen spread which includes seven items starting with the Persian letter “Seen”. Haft-seen items symbolize wealth, health and good fortune. Iranians take the opportunity of Nowruz holidays to visit relatives and travel around.
Sizdah Bedar or the Nature’s Day is another festive occasion marked in Iran since ancient times. Families get together on the 13th day of Persian New Year and go outdoors for picnic in parks or the wilderness.
It is an opportunity to renew family bonds and build stronger ties with nature.
This is another very popular spring festival. Each year in May, locals in and around the city of Kashan harvest pink damask roses known as Gol-e Mohammadi to extract rosewater.
The thousand-year-old festival provides a sensory rush of lovely colors and fragrant smells. You can read about Pink Tour to know more about Rosewater Festival.
It is the longest night of the year which occurs at the end of autumn. After Yalda, days will grow longer while nights become shorter. Therefore, Yalda is the celebration of the eventual victory of light over darkness. Iranians hold family gatherings in this night and stay awake well past midnight. Iranians use the occasion to boost family bonds through these gatherings.
For the Persian ancestors, Yalda was an occasion to gather and keep the light glowing in a symbolic move to help the sun in its battle against darkness.
Sadeh Festival is one of the ancient ceremonies of old Persia. The word “Sadeh” means “one hundred” and refers to 100 days and nights before Nowruz, the Persian New Year. There are many different legends about Sadeh Festival which Iranians celebrate in mid-winter (on the 10th day of the month of Bahman). But whatever the legend behind the festivity is, the aim of the festival has always been the same. The actual purpose is to gather together to defeat the darkness and coldness by honoring fire.
It is another festive occasion which Iranians celebrate each year. Chaharshanbeh Suri or the Red Wednesday falls on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year.
On this occasion, people make bonfires and jump over them. While jumping over the fire, people repeat a phrase in Farsi: Sorkhi-e to az man, Zardi-e man az to which means give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly yellow color.
The majority of Iranians are Muslims who observe religious holidays. Among the more important occasions are the fasting month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (which is a day of celebrations following Ramadan), Eid al-Adha (called Eid-e Qorban in Iran) which is the feast of sacrifice during the annual hajj pilgrimage and the first ten days of the lunar month of Muharram during which Iranian mourn the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia imam.
In addition to these events, there are occasions marked by local communities in different parts of the country. For instance, the carpet washing ceremony in Mashhahd-e Ardahal near Kashan is a ceremony held on the second Friday of autumn to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the son of the fifth Shia Imam.