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Nowruz: Celebrating the Persian New Year

Marking A New Start

Anasheh Bairamzadeh
4 minutes read

Nowruz or the Persian New Year is an ancient and widely-celebrated holiday on the Iranian calendar. Nowruz which usually falls on March 21 marks the beginning of the spring.

During the last month of the calendar (Esfand) and ahead of the New Year holiday, people are busy with shopping, cleaning and of course the traditional way of home decorating. On the last few days of the Iranian year, you can see crowds rushing to markets and bazaars everywhere to buy whatever they need and make the final preparations. All cheerful and happy because of the festive days ahead.

Iranians rushing to markets
Iranians rushing to markets for Nowruz shopping

Setting Haft-Seen Table

Among the preparations for Nowruz, buying the Haft-Seen table items is the interesting part.

Sabzeh -NowruzBuying Sabzeh for Haft-Seen

The Haft Seen is a table with seven items starting with the Persian ‘s’ sound. You may have your own variation of Haft-Seen according to your own and family’s beliefs; some items are explained below:

  • ‘Sabzeh’: Freshly grown greens which symbolize rebirth and renewal
  • ‘Senjed’: The dried fruit of the oleaster tree which symbolizes love
  • ‘Sib’: Apple for beauty
  • ‘Seer’: Garlic for health and taking care of oneself
  • ‘Samanu’: A sweet pudding symbolizing wealth and fertility
  • ‘Serkeh’: Vinegar for patience and wisdom that comes with aging
  • ‘Sumac’: A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries for the sunrise of a new day

Some may add a mirror symbolizing reflection, colored eggs for fertility, coins for prosperity and live goldfish for a new life.

Haft-Seen Tablecloth
Haft-Seen table

Chaharshanbeh Suri

Just before we get to Nowruz, there is another festive occasion which Iranians celebrate each year. It is called Chaharshanbeh Suri or the Red Wednesday which 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.

Also some may light firecrackers and fireworks or launch sky lanterns  and make a wish while letting them go.

Sky lanterns
Sky lanterns

Another tradition on Chaharshanbeh Suri is spoon banging, it is somehow similar to the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating. People go door-to-door banging spoons against plates or bowls and receive packaged snacks.

Nowruz

Nowruz or the Persian New Year, literally means “new day” . It is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of the spring in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, everyone greets the spring and the New Year.

Families, relatives and friends come together to sit around the Haft-Seen table. Usually during the precious moment of entering the New Year, Muslim families read the Quran and some poems of Hafez. Once the day of Nowruz arrives, it kicks off a 13-day celebration including family visits and trips. During this visitations children are so lucky since they get monetary gifts (new banknotes) from their parents and adult relatives. Iranians serve their guests during this holiday with special sweets, nuts and cuisine.

Nowruz Celebration
Persian New Year

Sizdah Bedar

After thirteen days of joy and celebration we come to the last day which is called Sizdah Bedar. On the 13th of Farvardin people go for outdoors picnic to enjoy nature. The greenery (sabzeh) grown for the Haft-Seen table is thrown away in a running water. There is also a custom that young girls tie the leaves before throwing the greenery away to wish for a partner. Another custom on Sizdah Bedar is the playing of jokes and pranks, similar to April Fools’ Day.

Floating Sabzeh -Nowruz
Greenery thrown into running water

If you travel to Iran in Nowruz, you will experience pleasant feelings, all with the overarching theme of getting a fresh start.


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