Nowruz

Celebratory foods for Nowruz © Mohammad Shirkavand

For thousands of years, Nowruz has been celebrated by the Persians. This ancient ceremony is celebrated every year on 1 Farvardin (the first month in Persian Calendar), roughly 20 April, to welcome the new year and the spring, which brings life back to Earth for a new beginning. However, preparations begin a few weeks before, and the actions and performances continue for almost two weeks.

Preparing for New Spring

Nowruz preparations begin a few weeks prior to the new year, with a traditional spring cleaning called khaneh yekani. It is also customary to purchase new clothing for the family and maybe new furniture for the home as a way of welcoming the new year and spring.

Haft Seen Table

While preparing for Nowruz, the people create the Haft Seen Table, a special family activity that begins by spreading a special family cloth on a table and setting the table with the seven S (seen) items including:

  • Sumac: The crushed spice of berries for the sunrise and the spice of life
  • Senjed: Sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree for love and affection
  • Serkeh: Vinegar for patient and age
  • Seeb: Apple for health and beauty
  • Sir: Garlic for good health
  • Samanu: wheat pudding for fertility and sweetness of life
  • Sabzeh: sprouted wheat grass for rebirth and renewal of nature

Besides these items, other symbolic items go on the Haft Seen Table, depending on the tradition of each family. For example, a mirror symbolizes a reflection on the past year, an orange in a bowl of water symbolizes Earth, colored eggs represent fertility, and coins for prosperity in the new year. Special flowers called Hyacinths symbolize spring, and candles radiate light and happiness. Families also put Qur’an or Shahnameh, an epic Persian story of colorful kings and princes written around 1000 CE by the great Persian poet, Ferdowsi.

Chahar Shanbe Suri

It is also a tradition to celebrate the last Wednesday of the old year, Chahar Shanbe Suri by lighting small bonfire in the streets and jump over the flame shouting “Zardie to az man, sorkhie man az to” which means “May my sickly pallor be yours and your red glow be mine” with which, the flame symbolically removes all the unpleasant and unwelcomed things of the previous year.

Qashoq Zani

While others are jumping over the bonfire, others are busy performing Qashoq Zani, which is very much like Halloween. Children—with some of the adults—wander around the alleys making sounds by tapping a pan or pot to bring out the neighbors. The neighbors open their doors and give the children treats.

Falgoosh

A group of unmarried woman and teenagers huddled in the corners of dark alleys and stand falgoosh, listening to the conversations of passersby. The content of the first sentence of a conversation is regarded as an omen (fal) or portent for the future. This continues until there is no more wood to burn.

Traditions

It is also a custom to make ash (a kind of soup) and serve it after the ceremony to end the Chahar Shanbe Suri program. After ending the ceremony, in a few days, all people around the country wait for the exact time of changing seasons, when the new year comes, the tahvil moment.

The Moment of Tahvil

The exact time of the new year is calculated by astrologists and occurs during the venereal equinox; this is tahvil. Throughout history, people have been informed when they hear “Haji Firooz” being sung. A special person crossing through their neighborhood and the singing and dancing would spread the news of Nowruz. He is dressed in a red satin outfit and has his face painted as a disguise. A few minutes left to tahvil, families and friends gather around the Haft Seen Table.

To Visit Elderly

The joyful moment of tahvil is delightful for people, and they want to share the good feeling with those beloved and close friends and relatives. The priority is to visit with the elderly on the new year, where they serve fruit, sweets, and nuts, and children receive small gifts or an amount of money called eidi from their grandparents. This is why children are so passionate for these visits. These visits continue depending on how busy the adults are or until the last day of the Nowruz holiday.

Sizdah Bedar

On 13 Farvardin, the last day of the Nowruz holiday, people will leave their places to spend the day in the countryside. It is called sizdah (thirteen) bedar (out) to accompany nature through the change of the seasons. They bring their sabzeh and get to tie grass and make wishes like making a wonderful spouse or wishing for money, and after that they throw it into running water.