The Persian New Year 2019 which is also known as Norooz is celebrated on the 21st of March, Thursday. Called by the name ‘Nowruz’, it’s an annual event for the Iranians celebrating the first day of the year for Persians around the world. This festival is being celebrated since more than 3000 years across western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans.
For most of the celebrants, it’s a holiday of the secular type but for the Persians, it remains a holy day. It occurs on the day of Vernal Equinox thus marking the starting of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
According to the Iranian Calendar, it occurs on the first day of the first month i.e. Farvardin. It generally takes place on the 21st of March or the previous day or the next day depending upon the place where it’s being observed. Once the sun crosses the celestial equator and the night and day becomes equal, families get together to perform the rituals of this day.
- Ancient Roots Of Persian New Year
It’s supposedly believed that Iranians in the past used to celebrate the beginning of both autumn and spring for the celebration of New Year. It is thought that the pomp of the Babylonian festivities led the Iranians to transform their own spring festival into a New Year’s feast with the name “Navasarda”.
Nowruz is partially having its roots in Iranian religion traditions such as those of Mitraism and Zoroastrianism. In the former, the festivals are deeply linked to sun’s light. The latter emphasizes more on concepts such as working of good and evil in the world. The Persians believe that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe came into being and started moving.
- Celebration Of Nowruz In Different Places
Europe & USA: It is celebrated in various parts of Europe and the Americas including Los Angeles, Toronto, Cologne and London. As Los Angeles has very strict fire codes, Iranians living in Southern California visit the beaches to celebrate the events and build fires where it’s permissible.
Iran : Here, Nowruz celebrations last for two weeks making the first to the fourth day of Farvardin, four days of official public holidays. Political leaders make special speeches during this period every year.
Azerbaijan : Right after Iran, this Republic has the highest number of public holidays during the Nowruz time i.e. a total of seven days. Here, the festival is ended on a note of festive public dancing and entertainment by other folk bands as well as events of national sports.
Turkey : Nowruz became an official holiday in Turkey much later with people in Syria dressing up in their national dress and celebrating the New Year. The Kurds of Turk enjoy this festival by feasting from 18th to 21st march and gather in fairgrounds outside the city to welcome the oncoming spring. The women folk don colored dresses and tie head scarves while the young men wave flags representing the colors of the Kurds i.e. green, yellow and red. This festival is celebrated by lighting fire and dancing around it.
- Observances During This Festival
House Cleaning : As Nowruz approaches, the Iranian people get to major spring cleaning of their houses as well as buying new clothes and flowers particularly the hyacinth and tulips for the New Year. Houses are decorated with various auspicious symbols like butterflies, birds, stars and fish. On the day itself, the people wear their new clothes and put on gold jewelry, silver kustis and caps. Doors and windows are adorned with garlands of jasmines and roses while colored powders are used to create designs and patterns known as ‘rangoli’ on the steps and entrance.
Haft Seen : It is the name given to the traditional setting up of tables during Nowruz. Just before the arrival of the new year, family members sit around a table with the haft seen set on it and wait impatiently for the exact time of the March Equinox to exchange New Year gifts and start the celebrations. The setting consists of seven items namely lentil sprouts, sweet pudding, and dried fruit of oleaster tree, garlic, apples, sumac and vinegar. Other symbolic items that are seen are candles, a mirror, decorated eggs, and decorating coins, a bowl of goldfish in water, holy book, poetry book and rose water.
Kampirak : In Afghanistan, Kampirak and his group visit village after village redistributing the charities he gathered among the people. His appearance is that of an old man wearing colorful clothes and long hat and beads of rosary.
Haft Mewa : People of Afghanistan prepare the famous haft mewa for Nowruz which is basically a fruit salad and consists of seven different fruits and their syrups. The seven fruits thus are raisin, Senjed, Pistachio, Hazelnut, Prune, Walnuts and Almond.
Visiting People : During the Nowruz times, people are supposed to be visiting families, relatives, friends and neighbors which are generally reciprocated. First, the youngsters will visit the elders and then the elders will return the visits. A usual visiting takes lesser time than 30 minutes and visitors are generally served tea, pastry, cookies, dried fruits and mixed nuts.
Sizdebedar : In Iran, the holidays for Nowruz continue till thirteen days and on the last day, people leave their houses and join outdoor picnics for the sizdebedar ceremony. In this ceremony, the greenery that had been grown in the haft seen is thrown into running water by young girls after tying the leaves making a wish for a partner.
Popular Desserts And Dishes : Among the most popular are the ‘Baklava’ which is flaky pastry with walnuts, almonds and pistachio filling, Falooda, Noql i.e. sugar coated almonds and Shorgoghal which are flaky bread with spicy filling. Dishes like Chicken farcha, Fried fish and jalebi, sabzi polow with fish and Kuku Sabzi are popular dishes for the main courses.