Iranian New Year arrives
The wishper of spring in the breeze
20 Mar 2009 8:00
"Nowruz" with various local pronunciations and spellings, meaning 'New Day'. It is the traditional Iranian New Year holiday celebrated by Iranian people and initiated in Ancient Iran.
IBNA: Apart from Iran, the celebration has spread in many other parts of the world including parts of West Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, Northwestern China, and the Caucasus, between Kurdish population of Turkey, the Crimea, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Republic of Macedonia.
Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (the start of spring in the northern hemisphere), which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.
The term Nowruz first appeared in Persian records in the second century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the emperor (Shahanshah) of Persia on Nowruz.
Nowruz celebration in Iran
In Iran, preparations for Nowruz begin in Esfand, the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar:
Khoune Takouni (Spring cleaning)
Khoune Takouni (literally means 'shaking the house') or 'complete cleaning of the house'. Persians (Iranians and Tajiks) and other groups (Kurds, Armenians, Azarbaijanis, Balochs and various Turkic nations) start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the new year and the purchase of flowers (in particular the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous).
In association with the "rebirth of nature", extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed by almost every household in Persia. This is also extended to personal attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. On the New Year's day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors.
During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to visit one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits, which are usually reciprocated. Typically, on the first day of Nowruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the youth will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. The visits naturally have to be relatively short; otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on their list. A typical visit is around 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time. Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and special nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items with tea or sherbet. Many Iranians will throw large Nowruz parties in a central location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.
Some Nowruz celebrants believe that whatever a person does on Nowruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Nowruz, then the new year will be a good one. On the other hand, if there are fights and disagreements, the year will be a bad one.
The night before the last Wednesday of the year is celebrated by the Iranian people as Chahârshanbe Sûrî .The Iranian festival of fire. This festival is a celebration of lights (the good) winning over darkness (the bad), the symbolism behind the rituals are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism.
The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardî-ye man az (ane) to, sorkhî-ye to az (ane) man.
This literally translates to "My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine," with the figurative message "My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me."
Serving different kinds of pastry and nuts known as Ajīl-e Moshkel-Goshā (lit. problem-solving nuts) is the Chahārshanbe Sūrī way of giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil for the warmth and vibrancy of the fire.
There are several other traditions on this night, including: qashogh-zany (spoon beating) that symbolizes the beating out of the last unlucky Wednesday of the year, the rituals of Kūze Shekastan, the breaking of earthen jars which symbolically hold one's bad fortune; the ritual of Fal-Gûsh, or inferring one's future from the conversations of those passing by; and the ritual of Gereh-goshā’ī, making a knot in the corner of a handkerchief or garment and asking the first passerby to unravel it in order to remove ones misfortune.
Haft Sīn or the seven 'S's is a major tradition of Nowruz. The haft sin table includes seven specific items starting with the letter 'S' or Sīn (س) in Persian alphabet. The items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals protecting them. The Haft Sin has evolved over time, but has kept its symbolism. Traditionally, families attempt to set as beautiful a Haft Sīn table as they can, as it is not only of traditional and spiritual value, but also noticed by visitors during Nowruzi visitations and is a reflection of their good taste.
The Haft Sīn items are: Sabzeh ; wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth.
Samanu; a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence. Senjed ; the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love. Sīr - garlic ; symbolizing medicine. Sīb ; apples- symbolizing beauty and health . Somaq ; sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise. Serkeh ; vinegar - symbolizing age and patience
Other items on the table include: Qur'an, Sonbol - Hyacinth (plant) ,Sekkeh - Coins - representative of wealth ,Traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi, Aajeel - dried nuts, berries and raisins , Liting candles (enlightenment and happiness) , A mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty) , Decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility), A bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving) ,Rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers .
New Year dishes
Sabzi Polo Mahi: The New Year's day traditional meal is called Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with green herbs served with fish. The traditional seasoning for Sabzi Polo is parsley, coriander, chives, dill and fenugreek.
Sizdah Be dar
The thirteenth day of the New Year festival is Sizdah Be dar (literally meaning "thirteen to out", figuratively meaning "hit the outdoors on the thirteenth"). This is a day of festivity in the open, often accompanied by music and dancing, usually at family picnics.
Sizdah be dar celebrations stem from the ancient Persians' belief that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years at the end of which the sky and earth collapsed in chaos. Hence Nowruz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.
At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen (which has symbolically collected all sickness and bad luck) is thrown into running water to exorcise the demons from the household.