• Date: Monday Mar 21, 2016. The Persian New Year is known by the name of Nowruz. The word has been coined by combining two terms – “now” or “nou” which literally translated mean “new”; and “ruz” or “roz” which literally translated means “day”. Cumulatively the two terms come together to announce the advent of the New Year; which incidentally also marks the advent of Spring Season in Persia.

  • Overview: Nowruz is celebrated in Persia according to the dictates of the traditional Persian calendar. Celebrations of this day can be seen in many parts across the globe. In Persia this is one of the most significant celebrations and is given the status of a national holiday. Nowruz in Persia is celebrated for thirteen days. Nowruz is calculated to fall on the day which marks the northward equinox from the astronomical point of view. Because of this Nowruz is generally celebrated each year around the 21st day of March.

  • History: The celebration of the traditional Persian New Year is believed officially to date back to the 2nd century A.D. However, many historians have opined that commemoration of Nowruz existed even during the time of the rule of the the Achaemenid Empire, which can be dated to the 550 to 330 BCE. In the year 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared Nowruz to be an International Day, where it has been described as the “spring festival of Persia that has been celebrated for thousands of years”. Omar Khayyam, the renowned poet and mathematician from the land of Persia has documented the splendor with which Nowruz was celebrated in the ancient times, and such documentation can be found in his book titled Nowruznama which denotes the Saga of the New Year.

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  • Customs: There are many traditional customs to celebrate Nowruz –

  • o    Spring Cleaning – This is a traditional custom that goes by the name of Khouneh Tekouni. The term literally means “to shake well”. People of Persia believe that the New Year is the time to shake away all that is old and worn, and welcome all that is new and fresh. For this all the homes are properly cleaned. People also wear new clothes for the occasion.

    o    Visiting Family, Neighbors and Friends – Nowruz is a celebration that involves meeting and greeting family and friends. The custom begins by visiting the elders of the family, and comes the turns of other family members, neighbors and friends. People carry sweets as part of traditional mandate while they pay visits, while even the hosts treat their guests with sweets.

    o    Nowruz Parties – Traditionally, the Persian New Year celebrations involved visiting families, neighbors and friends. However, these days with people having families and friends living miles apart, it becomes very troublesome to attend guests visiting one’s home, and as well as pay visit to families and friends at the same time. To eradicate such inconvenience people often decide to organize for parties at a central location where everyone can come together to have a gala time.

    o    Nowruz Picnic or Sizdah Be-dar – Traditional Persian New Year celebrations last for thirteen days, and on the last day of the festival it is the time to have a good time with family and friends out of door. As such, this is the day when picnics are organized for. This ritual goes by the name of Sizdah Be-dar.

    o    Nowruz Resolutions – People in Persia think that the first day of the New Year always hold symbolic significance, and the way that day fares determines how the rest of the year shall be. People try to spend the day in a positive manner. It is not a day for arguments or disputes. It is not a day for disillusionment or sorrow. It is a day that is spent in happy harmony.

    o    Bonfire and Singing – Nowruz is a happy festival. It is also the time when people think about rejuvenation and reiteration. Fire is considered holy in the Persian culture. It is believed to eradicate all that is dark and evil, and illuminate lives with positivity and happiness. As such every road and byroad would witness a bonfire arranged where people dance and sing merrily, and also jump over the fire.

    o    Making, Serving and Gifting Sweetmeats – During the Nowruz celebrations people visit family and friends. To entertain them, people make sweets in homes from beforehand. While visiting, people also carry sweets as token of goodwill and kind gesture. Children of the neighborhood visit homes asking for sweets – the clatter that they make is believed to scare away anything that is evil. It is also the custom to make sweets and keep it at a safe place outside one’s residence the night before the New Year. On the day of the New Year someone from the family goes to fetch those back to the house. This is believed to ring in a New Year that is happy and sweet.

    o    Sending off Bad Luck– In most countries around the world, New Year is considered to be the time when people make efforts to ward off all that is evil or negative. Persian New Year celebrations are no exceptions. However, here it is done through set customs –

    ü  Kūze Shekastan – People believe that bad luck gets stored in earthen pots, and as such people break some of them in a symbolic gesture of driving away bad luck.

    ü  Fal-Gûsh – People often predict how the future days of the New Year would turn out to be depending upon the bits and pieces of conversation they overhear from passersby.

    ü  Gereh-goshā’ī – People often tie a knot to a piece of cloth or handkerchief. A passerby is requested to untie the knot. This is a symbolic gesture of coming out of all hurdles that the year may have in store.

    o    Haft Sīn – This is a traditional pattern to set the table for the occasion of Nowruz for which seven items having symbolic importance are placed on the table. The rule is that the names of all these seven items should begin with the Persian letter Sin.

    o    Nowruz Feasting – Nowruz is a joyous occasion which naturally involves feasting. Traditional Persian delicacies are specially cooked for the occasion, and include items like Nowruz Koje, Dolme Barg, Sabzi Polo Mahi, Kookoo sabzi, Reshteh Polo, and many others. Some of such food items are believed to bear symbolic significance.

    o    Sizdah Bedar – This is observed on the thirteenth day of Nowruz. The ancient Persian people believed that thirteen was an unlucky number. As such when one lived through the thirteenth day of the New Year, one would surely surmount all the hurdles that the ravages of time may bring; or so they believed. As such this victory was celebrated with music, dancing and feasting.

  • Greetings: The Traditional way to greet for Persian New Year would be “Nowruz Mobarak”. To wish prosperity for the New Year can be communicated thus -- “Nowruz Pirooz”; while hundred more happy returns is said to be “Sad Saal Bin Saal-ha”.