Navroz also called Nowruz is the Iranian New Year and the word means “a New Day”. It is also the Persian New Year. This day is celebrated by the Iranians throughout the world and also by few other cultural linguistic groups as the start of the New Year.
This particular day has been observed for more than three thousand years in the Black Sea basin, the Balkans, Central Asia, Western Asia and the Caucasus. This day marks the very first day of Farvardin which is the first month of the official Iranian Calendar. It is the day of the Northward Equinox, also known as Vernal Equinox in the Northern hemisphere.
Navroz is the beginning of spring season in the Northern Hemisphere. And generally occurs around 21st March depending on the place where it is being observed. Even though this day has Zoroastrian and Iranian roots, it has been observed and celebrated among various other groups for centuries. This secular holiday is enjoyed by all the people but it continues to be religious day for the Zoroastrians.
- Etymology of the word
- The meaning of the word “now” is new and it is linked to other words like new in English, neu in German, novus in Latin, nava in Sanskrit and many more.
- However the pronunciation of this word differs from one Persian dialect to another.
- In modern Persian “Ruz” means day. However, the traditional meaning of this word was light. It is connected to the various other words like loys in Armenian, lux in Latin, light in English and ruci in Sanskrit.
Even though it is not at all clear whether the Iranians used to celebrate the first day of the year by holding a feast but indication are there that they might have observed both Autumn and Spring’s beginning which are related to harvest and sowing of seeds respectively, for the new Year’s celebration. Navroz is partially or partly engraved in the traditions and rituals of Iranian religions like Zoroastrianism and Mitraism. In Mitraism sunlight plays a significant role in more or less all the festivals. The festivals of Iran such as Tirgan, Mehrgan which is the autumnal equinox and eve of Chelle ye Zemestan which is the winter solstice have connections with the Sun God, Surya. Zoroastrianism is the first religion that believed in the existence of one God and also in other concepts like good and evil works simultaneously in this world and linkage between the nature and human beings. The most important festivals in this religion are Nowruz and the six Gahambar festivals. The time span between the sunset on sixth Gahambar day and sunrise on Nowruz day, Hamaspathmaedaya was observed. These are the only festivals mentioned in the text of Avesta.
- Regions of Celebration
This day is celebrated by many people in the Black Sea basin, the Balkans, Central and Southern Asia, Western Asia, the Caucasus and by the Iranians all over the world. It has been officially declared as public holiday in many places including Afghanistan, Albania, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan etc. On 30th March 2009, the parliament of Canada added Nowruz to its national calendar. This day is widely celebrated among the Kurdish people of Turkey and Iraq and also by the Parsis in India. It is also celebrated by the Iranian communities of Europe and America.
- Rituals and Observances
- One of the most common traditions is cleaning and decorating of household on the arrival of this day.
- Iranians decorate their houses with symbols of stars, birds, fish and butterflies as they are considered to be auspicious.
- Buying new clothes is a must on the New Years.
- The eve of Navroz is called the festival of Charshanbe Suri which is celebrated in the evening.
- People make bonfires and are seen to jump over them followed by burning of firecrackers.
- The festival of Gul-i-Surkh is the main festival of Navroz and is celebrated during the first forty days of the year in Mazar-i-Sharif.
- The festival of Dehqan is observed on the very first day of the year on which all the farmers walk around the cities to encourage agricultural production.
- During this holiday people visit one another and spend time with family and close relatives.
- There are various other festivals observed during the Nowruz and each has its own set of customs and traditions.