For many people, New Year’s resolutions are either in progress, or have been left behind. However, Iranians around the world are preparing their lists as Norouz, the Persian New Year, approaches. On Wednesday, March 20th, the first day of spring, Iranians will ring in the year 1398. In Farsi, “No-” translates to “new” and “-rouz” translates to “day”, thus Norouz commemorates the first day of the new year. You may be wondering, “1398”? Iran follows the Solar Hijri calendar, in which the years are counted beginning from the time that the prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina. The calendar is also based on the movement of the seasons (adapted from the Zoroastrian calendar). Norouz is precisely calculated to begin each year on the March equinox.
Norouz is a time to celebrate renewal and rebirth in springtime. The tradition can be traced back 3000 years ago at the height of Zoroastrianism in ancient Iran where there would be a celebration of life after the “Farvardgan” festival, which was a time they honored the spirits of those in their life who had passed. Kings would invite those from near and far to commemorate the new year. Norouz is an important tradition within Iranian culture that has been carried on through many generations and is celebrated by all Iranians.
There are many festivities and customs that are symbolic to the celebration of Norouz. A key tradition of Norouz is a decorated table called the “Haft-sin,” – “haft” meaning the number seven and “sin” representing the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet. The table is decorated with seven symbolic items, each starting with the letter “S.” The seven items include:
- Sabzeh – Lentils are soaked and placed in a dish to sprout a few days before the New Year. They serve as a symbol of rebirth.
- Samanu – A wheat germ-based pudding with a developed sweet taste representing affluence, as well as the intricacy of Persian cuisine.
- Senjed – A sweet and dried fruit of a Lotus tree placed as a symbol of love.
- Seer – Farsi for “garlic.” It is a symbol of medicine.
- Seeb – Farsi for “apple.” It represents good health and beauty.
- Somaq – A spice used in Kabob dishes made from Sumac berries. It symbolizes the color of sunrise.
- Serkeh – Farsi for “vinegar.” It symbolizes age and patience like the fermentation process of making vinegar.
Other items are placed on the haft-sin that also hold significant meaning. “Sombol,” a hyacinth flower, is a very popular decoration, as the beauty and fragrance of the flower exemplify the coming of spring. “Sekeh,” or coins, are also placed as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Many people also decorate eggs and place them on the table as a symbol of fertility. A mirror is also a common decoration, signifying reflection and introspection upon starting the new year.
Another tradition of Norouz is the process of “khuneh tekooni,” or spring cleaning. Families are busy tidying their homes and getting rid of or donating the things they no longer need or use. It symbolizes preparing a fresh and clean spirit for the new year.
Norouz is an exciting time of the year for Iranians all around the world as they prepare to celebrate a holiday that has been a part of their culture and history for so long. To those celebrating this year, ‘Norouzetun Pirooz, Har Roozetun Norooz” (Happy New Year)! May this year bring happiness, health, and prosperity.