Happy Nowruz to all!
I received a wonderful Nowruz (New Year’s) greeting from my good friend, Narimon Safavi, yesterday. I have learned so much from Nari about Iranian history, politics, and culture that I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. I think the best way to demonstrate this to you is by sharing his lovely thoughts and informative excerpts with you (I don’t think he will mind):
Doostan, Beloved Ones,
One of the gifts of having been born into an Iranian family is the nearly religious commemorations of the change in seasons and the cycles of nature , serving as a constant reminder of one’s position in the cosmic order of things.
In the past three millennia many nations have been created and then vanished. Yet several historians consider the survival of the Iranians ( or the Persians as the Greeks called them ) to have been due to the dogged obsession with the precise calculations of the sacred moments of balance in nature ; along with the poetically subversive nature of their language ( in other word, Calender / Math and Poetry ) .
The Spring ( Vernal ) Equinox ( March 20-21 ) represents one of those sacred moments, as well as being symbolic of renewal. It is celebrated for nearly three weeks , starting with a fireworks ceremony on the Tuesday night before the arrival of the equinox and culminates with a day of picnics and outdoor activities on the 13th day of the new year. In between one celebrates the arrival of the new year with the family and starting on the second day, a series of home visits with the elders begins in a proper chronological order. One could consider all of this as the ancient Persian version of the pre-party, the party and then the after-party for the new year’s eve, stretched out into a three week process without leaving the senior citizens out of the action. Meanwhile, not much work gets done in countries that celebrate this holiday, much to the bewilderment of the other societies of our globalized world.
Early Tuesday morning ( 12:14 AM CDT ) on March 20 , the earth will be in the exact position where both hemispheres will receive equal daylight and darkness. Hundreds of millions of people who reside in areas with historic connections to the old Persian Empire, from western borders of China , to Central and South Asia as well as the pockets in the Caucuses and the Balkans and North Africa ( not to speak of Iran ), will simultaneously celebrate that very moment. As you step out of your home that day, if you even briefly contemplate the glory of the arrival of the new season, you will have proved that being Iranian is not about bloodlines, but a state of mind.
Pasted below is an article that explains the decorative and symbolic components of the festivities.
Happy Nowruz ( No-Rooz ? ),
No-Rooz, The Iranian New Year at Present Times
No-Rooz, in word, means “New Day”. It is the new day that starts the year, traditionally the exact astronomical beginning of the Spring. Iranians take that as the beginning of the year. This exact second is called “Saal Tahvil”. No-Rooz with its’ uniquely Iranian characteristics has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian (This was the religion of ancient Persia before the advent of Islam in 7th century A.D.).
Iranians consider No-Rooz as their biggest celebration of the year, before the new year, they start cleaning their houses (Khaane Tekaani), and they buy new clothes. But a major part of New Year rituals is setting the “Haft Seen” with seven specific items. In ancient times each of the items corresponded to one of the seven creations and the seven holy immortals protecting them. Today they are changed and modified but some have kept their symbolism. All the seven items start with the letter “S”; this was not the order in ancient times. These seven things usually are: Seeb (apple), Sabze (green grass), Serke (vinager), Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), Sekke (coin), and Seer (garlic). Sometimes instead of Serke they put Somagh (sumak, an Iranian spice). Zoroastrians today do not have the seven “S”s but they have the ritual of growing seven seeds as a reminder that this is the seventh feast of creation, while their sprouting into new growth symbolized resurrection and eternal life to come.
Wheat or lentil representing new growth is grown in a flat dish a few days before the New Year and is called Sabzeh (green shoots). Decorated with colorful ribbons, it is kept until Sizdah beh dar, the 13th day of the New Year, and then disposed outdoors. A few live gold fish (the most easily obtainable animal) are placed in a fish bowl. In the old days they would be returned to the riverbanks, but today most people will keep them. Mirrors are placed on the spread with lit candles as a symbol of fire. Most of the people used to place Qoran on their Sofreh (spread) in order to bless the New Year. But some people found another alternative to Qoran and replaced it by the Divan-e Hafez (poetry book of Hefez), and during “Saal Tahvil” reading some verses from it was popular. Nowadays, a great number of Iranians are placing Shahnameh (the Epic of Kings) of Ferdowsi on their spread as an Iranian national book. They believe that Shahnameh has more Iranian identity values and spirits, and is much suitable for this ancient celebration.
After the Saal Tahvil, people hug and kiss each other and wish each other a happy new year. Then they give presents to each other (traditionally cash, coins or gold coins), usually older ones to the younger ones. The first few days are spent visiting older members of the family, relatives and friends. Children receive presents and sweets, special meals and “Aajil” (a combination of different nuts with raisins and other sweet stuff) or fruits are consumed. Traditionally on the night before the New Year, most Iranians will have Sabzi Polo Mahi, a special dish of rice cooked with fresh herbs and served with smoked and freshly fried fish. Koukou Sabzi, a mixture of fresh herbs with eggs fried or baked, is also served. The next day rice and noodles (Reshteh Polo) is served. Regional variations exist and very colorful feasts are prepared.
The 13th day of the new year is called “Sizdah Bedar” and spent mostly outdoors. People will leave their homes to go to the parks or local plains for a festive picnic. It is a must to spend Sizdah Bedar in nature. This is called Sizdah Bedar and is the most popular day of the holidays among children because they get to play a lot! Also in this day, people throw the Sabze away, they believe Sabze should not stay in the house after “Sizdah Bedar”. Iranians regard 13th day as a bad omen and believe that by going into the fields and parks they avoid misfortunes. It is also believed that unwed girls can wish for a husband by going into the fields and tying a knot between green shoots, symbolizing a marital bond.
Another tradition of the new year celebrations is “Chahar-Shanbeh Soori“. It takes place before Saal Tahvil, at the last Wednesday of the old year, well actually Tuesday night! People set up bon fire, young and old leap over the fires with songs and gestures of merriment like:
(Sorkhi-e to az man) Give me your beautiful red color
(Zardi-e man az to) And take back my sickly pallor!
It means: I will give you my yellow color (sign of sickness), and you give me your fiery red color (sign of healthiness). This is a purification rite and ‘suri’ itself means red and fiery.
No-Rooz Mobarak (Happy No-Rooz, Happy New Year);
Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak (Happy New Year to you);
No-Rooz Pirooz (Wishing you a Prosperous New Year);
Sad Saal be in Saal-ha (Wishing you 100 more Happy New Years).
After all No-Rooz is a fun time for all of the Iranians, old and young.