Georgian: ნავრუზი – Navruzi
Gujarati: નવરોઝ – Navarōjha
Kazakh: Наурыз – Nawrız
Kyrgyz: Нооруз – Nooruz
Ossetian: Новруз – Novruz
Tajik: Наврӯз – Navrūz
|Type||New Year, national, ethnic, international|
|Significance||New Year holiday|
|Celebrations||Haft-Seen, Charshanbe Suri, Sizda' be Dar, etc.|
|Date||March 20, 21, or 22|
Sunday 20 March 2016|
at 04:30 UTC *
Monday 20 March 2017|
at 10:29 UTC *
Tuesday 20 March 2018|
at 16:15 UTC *
|Nowrouz, Novruz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz|
|Country||Iran, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan|
|Region||Asia and the Pacific|
|Inscription||2009 (4th session)|
Nowruz (Persian: نوروز Nowruz; [nouˈɾuːz]; literally "New Day") is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by Iranian people, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day, depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals.
Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
The term Nowruz is a Persian compound word and consists of:
- now (Old Persian: nava), which means "new" and descends from Proto-Indo-European *néṷos, has the following cognates: Latin novus, German neu, English new, Sanskrit náva, Russian novyj, etc.
- ruz, which means "day" in Modern Persian, is descended from Proto-Iranian *raučah- (Avestan: raocah; Middle Persian: rōz, rōj), itself derived from Proto-Indo-European *leṷk-. The original meaning of the word, however, was "light." It is related to Latin lux, Armenian loys, Sanskrit rúci, Slovenian luč and English light.
Regional variations in pronunciation
The Persian pronunciation differs in the many dialects of the language. While the eastern dialects have preserved the diphthong (IPA: [næuˈɾoːz]), the western dialects usually pronounce it with the diphthong IPA: [nouˈɾuːz], and some colloquial variants (such as the Tehrani accent) pronounce it with a long monophthong (IPA: [noːˈɾuːz]).
A variety of spelling variations for the word Nowruz exist in English-language usage. Random House (unabridged) provides the spelling Nowruz.
Merriam-Webster (2006) recognizes only the spelling "Nauruz" (and a contestant in the final session of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States, Allion Salvador, was disqualified on that basis).
History and origin
Although it is not clear whether proto-Indo-Iranians celebrated a feast as the first day of the calendar, there are indications that Iranians may have observed the beginning of both autumn and spring, respectively related to the harvest and the sowing of seeds, for the celebration of the New Year. Boyce and Grenet explain the traditions for seasonal festivals and comment: "It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Iranians to develop their own spring festival into an established New Year feast, with the name Navasarda "New Year" (a name which, though first attested through Middle Persian derivatives, is attributed to the Achaemenian period)." Since the communal observations of the ancient Iranians appear in general to have been a seasonal ones, and related to agriculture, "it is probable that they traditionally held festivals in both autumn and spring, to mark the major turning points of the natural year."
Nowruz is partly rooted in the tradition of Iranian religions, such as Mitraism and Zoroastrianism. In Mitraism, festivals had a deep linkage with the sun light. The Iranian festivals such as Mehrgan (autumnal equinox), Tirgan, and the eve of Chelle ye Zemestan (winter solstice) also had an origin in the Sun god (Surya). Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion that emphasizes broad concepts; such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Iran. In Zoroastrianism, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the six Gahambar festivals and Nowruz, which occurs at the spring equinox. According to Mary Boyce, "It seems a reasonable surmise that Nowruz, the holiest of them all, with deep doctrinal significance, was founded by Zoroaster himself"; although there is no clear date of origin. Between sunset on the day of the sixth Gahambar and sunrise of Nowruz, Hamaspathmaedaya (later known, in its extended form, as Frawardinegan; and today known as Farvardigan) was celebrated. This and the Gahambars are the only festivals named in the surviving text of the Avesta.
The 10th century scholar Biruni, in his work Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa'il Sina'at al-Tanjim, provides a description of the calendar of various nations. Besides the Iranian calendar, various festivals of Greeks, Jews, Arabs, Sabians, and other nations are mentioned in the book. In the section on the Iran calendar, he mentions Nowruz, Sadeh, Tirgan, Mehrgan, the six Gahambars, Farvardigan, Bahmanja, Esfand Armaz and several other festivals. According to him, "It is the belief of the Iranians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion." The Persian historian Gardizi, in his work titled Zayn al-Akhbār, under the section of the Zoroastrians festivals, mentions Nowruz (among other festivals) and specifically points out that Zoroaster highly emphasized the celebration of Nowruz and Mehrgan.
It has been suggested that the famous Persepolis complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and the Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating a feast related to Nowruz. Although there may be no mention of the term Nowruz in recorded Achaemenid inscriptions, there is a detailed account by Xenophon of a Nowruz celebration taking place in Persepolis and the continuity of this festival in the Achaemenid tradition. It was an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 550–330 BCE), where kings from different nations under the Achaemenid Empire used to bring gifts to the King of Kings of Iran. The significance of the ceremony in the Achaemenid Empire was such that King Cambyses II's appointment as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the referred annual Achaemenid festival. It was, therefore, a highly auspicious occasion for the ancient Iranian peoples.
In 539 BC, the Jews came under Iranian rule, thus exposing both groups to each other's customs. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther is adapted from an Iranian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens, suggesting that Purim may be a transformation of the Iranian New Year. A specific novella is not identified and Encyclopædia Britannica itself notes that "no Jewish texts of this genre from the Persian period are extant, so these new elements can be recognized only inferentially". The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics notes that the Purim holiday is based on a lunar calendar, while Nowruz occurs at the spring equinox (solar calendar). The two holidays are therefore celebrated on different dates but within a few weeks of each other, depending on the year. Given their temporal associations, it is possible that the Jews and Iranians of the time may have shared or adopted similar customs for these holidays. The story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther has been dated around 625–465 BC (although the story takes place with the Jews under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire and the Jews had come under Iranian rule in 539 BC), while Nowruz is thought to have first been celebrated between 555–330 BC. It remains unclear which holiday was established first.
Arsacid and Sassanid periods
Nowruz was the holiday of Arsacid dynastic empires who ruled Iran (248–224 CE) and the other areas ruled by the Arsacid dynasties outside of Parthia (such as the Arsacid dynasties of Armenia and Iberia). There are specific references to the celebration of Nowruz during the reign of Vologases I (51–78 CE), but these include no details. Before Sassanids established their power in Western Asia around 300 CE, Parthians celebrated Nowruz in autumn, and the first of Farvardin began at the autumn equinox. During the reign of the Parthian dynasty, the spring festival was Mehrgan, a Zoroastrian and Iranian festival celebrated in honor of Mithra.
Extensive records on the celebration of Nowruz appear following the accession of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE). Under the Sassanid emperors, Nowruz was celebrated as the most important day of the year. Most royal traditions of Nowruz, such as royal audiences with the public, cash gifts, and the pardoning of prisoners, were established during the Sassanid era and persisted unchanged until modern times.
After the Muslim conquest
Nowruz, along with Sadeh (celebrated in mid-winter), survived in society after the Muslim invasion of Iran in 650 CE. Other celebrations such the Gahambars and Mehrgan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians who carried them. It was adopted as the main royal holiday during the Abbasid period.
In the book Nowruznama ("Book of the New Year", which is attributed to Omar Khayyam, a well known Persian poet and mathematician), a vivid description of the celebration in the courts of the kings of Iran is provided: "From the era of Kai Khosrow till the days of Yazdegard, last of the pre-Islamic kings of Iran, the royal custom was thus: on the first day of the New Year, Now Ruz, the king's first visitor was the High Mobad of the Zoroastrians, who brought with him as gifts a golden goblet full of wine, a ring, some gold coins, a fistful of green sprigs of wheat, a sword, and a bow. In the language of Iran, he would then glorify God and praise the monarch. This was the address of the High Mobad to the king: "O Majesty, on this feast of the equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the faith of the ancient ones; may Sraosha, the angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestures and the exercise of justice and righteousness. May thy soul flourish; may thy youth be as the new-grown grain; may thy horse be puissant, victorious; thy sword bright and deadly against foes; thy hawk swift against its prey; thy every act straight as the arrow's shaft. Go forth from thy rich throne, conquer new lands. Honor the craftsman and the sage in equal degree; disdain the acquisition of wealth. May thy house prosper and thy life be long!"
Following the demise of the caliphate and the subsequent re-emergence of Iranian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Nowruz was elevated to an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sassanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the caliphate. According to the Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi, the Iranian Buyid ruler ʿAżod-od-Dawla (r. 949-83) customarily welcomed Nowruz in a majestic hall, wherein servants had placed gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers. The King would sit on the royal throne (masnad), and the court astronomer came forward, kissed the ground, and congratulated him on the arrival of the New Year. The king would then summon musicians and singers, and invited his boon companions. They would gather in their assigned places and enjoy a great festive occasion.
Even the Turkic and Mongol invaders did not attempt to abolish Nowruz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Nowruz remained as the main celebration in Iranian lands by both the officials and the people.
- Painting of Shah Abbas II and the courtiers celebrating Nowruz
- Painting of Sultan Husayn and the courtiers celebrating Nowruz
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran was the only country that officially observed the ceremonies of Nowruz. When the Caucasian and Central Asian countries gained independence from the Soviets, they also declared Nowruz as a national holiday.
The UN's General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In response to the UN recognition, Iran unveiled a postage stamp. The stamp was made public in the presence of the Iranian President during the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran on Saturday, 27 March 2010.
The second International Nowruz Celebrations were also held in Tehran in 2011. The 3rd International Nowruz Celebrations were held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 25, 2012 with Tajik President and his Iranian and Afghan counterparts in attendance. The next international ceremonies to celebrate Nowruz were scheduled to be hosted by Turkmenistan.
Countries that have Nowruz as a public holiday include:
- Afghanistan (21 March)
- Albania (22 March)
- Azerbaijan (20 March to 26 March, total of 7 days)
- Iran (20 March to 24 March, total of 5 days in general + total of 14 days for schools and universities)
- Iraq (de jure in Iraqi Kurdistan, de facto national) (21 March)
- Kazakhstan (21 March to 24 March, total of 4 days)
- Kosovo (21 March)
- Kyrgyzstan (21 March)
- Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia (22 March, regional state holiday only)
- Tajikistan (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days)
- Turkmenistan (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days)
- Uzbekistan (21 March)
Also the Canadian parliament, by unanimous consent, has passed a bill to add Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada, on March 30, 2009.
It is also taken place by Iranian communities in several regions in Europe and the Americas, including Los Angeles, Toronto, Cologne and London. But because Los Angeles is prone to devastating fires, there are very strict fire codes in the city. No fires are allowed even on one's own property. Usually, Iranians living in Southern California go to the beaches to celebrate the event where it is permissible to build fires. On 15 March 2010, the House of Representatives of the United States passed the Nowruz Resolution (H.Res. 267), by a 384–2 vote, "Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz, ... ."
- Nowruz in Kazakhstan
- Nowruz in Tekeli, 2013
- Traditional costume for Nowruz in Kazakhstan
- Traditional dancing during a Nowruz festival in Paris
- A Nowruz parade held by Iranian Azeris in New York City
Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran, marking the official New Year of the country. It is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar. In Iran, families celebrate the New Year since the exact time of the March equinox, which is calculated every year.
In Iran, following the 1979 Revolution, some elements from the government have attempted to suppress Nowruz with very little success. These considered Nowruz a pagan holiday and a distraction from Islamic holidays.
- Greenery shop for the Haft Seen setting in Iran
- Celebrating Nowruz at a mall in Tehran, Iran
- Traditional setting for Nowruz at a mall in Tehran, Iran
In Azerbaijan, the holiday goes on for several days and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk bands, as well as the contests of national sports. In rural areas, crop holidays are also marked.
- Novruz on Azerbaijani stamp
- Azerbaijani youth celebrating Novruz
- Novruz in Baku, Azerbaijan
- Novruz festival in Baku, Azerbaijan
- Folk dancers in Baku, during the Novruz celebrations
Nawruz is celebrated widely in Afghanistan. Also known as the Farmer's Day, the observances usually last two weeks, culminating on the first day of the Afghan New Year, on March 21. During the Taliban rule (1996–2001), Nawruz was banned and considered an "ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship."
In Albania, the day of Sultan Nevruzit is celebrated as a mainly mystical day by the Bektashi sect. There are special ceremonies in the Tekke, led by the clergy, and large meals are served there. They celebrate this day as the birthday of Ali.
Since the extinction during the 19th century, Nowruz is not celebrated by Armenians and is not a public holiday in Armenia. However, it is celebrated in Armenia by tens of thousands of Iranian tourists who visit Armenia with relative ease. The influx of tourists from Iran accelerated since around 2010–11. In 2010 alone, around 27,600 Iranians spent Nowruz in capital Yerevan.
It's a tradition for people to plant trees, dredge irrigation canals, clean houses and prepare scrumptious food for guests during the festival.
Nowruz is not celebrated by Georgians (excluding those who live in Iran and Azerbaijan), but it has become a public holiday in Georgia since 2010. It is widely celebrated by the country's large Azerbaijani minority (~7% of the total population) as well as by the Iranians living in Georgia. Most Georgian Azerbaijanis live in Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, Shida Kartli, and Mtskheta-Mtianeti regions. In addition, there is also a large historical Azerbaijani community in the capital city of Tbilisi, thus marking these as the core regions of celebration in Georgia. Every year, large festivities are held notably in the capital Tbilisi. Georgian politicians have attended the festivities in the capital over the years, and have congratulated the Nowruz-observing ethnic groups and nationals in Georgia on the day of Nowruz.
Kurds (Turkey and Syria)
Newroz (also known as Nevruz) is largely considered as a potent symbol of Kurdish identity in Turkey, even if there are some Turks (including Turkmens) celebrating the festival. The Kurds of Turkey celebrate this feast between 18th till 21 March. Kurds gather into fairgrounds mostly outside the cities to welcome spring. Women wear colored dresses and spangled head scarves and young men wave flags of green, yellow and red, the historic colors of Kurdish people. They hold this festival by lighting fire and dancing around it. Newroz celebrations are usually organised by Kurdish cultural associations and pro-Kurdish political parties. Thus, the Democratic Society Party was a leading force in the organisation of the 2006 Newroz events throughout Turkey. In recent years, the Newroz celebration gathers around 1 million participants in Diyarbakır, the biggest city of the Kurdish dominated Southeastern Turkey. As the Kurdish Newroz celebrations in Turkey often are theater for political messages, the events are frequently criticized for being political rallies rather than cultural celebrations.
Until 2005, the Kurdish population of Turkey could not celebrate their New Year openly. "Thousands of people have been detained in Turkey, as the authorities take action against suspected supporters of the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK. The holiday is now official in Turkey after international pressure on the Turkish government to lift culture bans. Turkish government renamed the holiday Nevroz in 1995. In the recent years, limitations on expressions of Kurdish national identity, including the usage of Kurdish in the public sphere, have been considerably relaxed.
In Syria, the Kurds dress up in their national dress and celebrate the New Year. According to Human Rights Watch, the Kurds have had to struggle to celebrate Newroz, and in the past the celebration has led to violent oppression, leading to several deaths and mass arrests. The government has stated that the Newroz celebrations will be tolerated as long as they do not become political demonstrations of the treatment of the Kurds. During the Newroz celebrations in 2008, three Kurds were shot dead by Syrian security forces.
Kurds in the diaspora also celebrate the New Year; for example, Kurds in Australia celebrate Newroz, not only as the beginning of the new year, but also as the Kurdish National Day. The Kurds in Finland celebrate the new year as a way of demonstrating their support for the Kurdish cause. Also in London, organizers estimated that 25000 people celebrated Newroz during March 2006.
Nowruz celebrations are observed by some of the ethnic groups in Pakistan, such as the Pashtuns and Baloch people. It may last weeks, particularly in the states of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, from where the largest groups of Pakistan's Iranian-speaking people originate from (Pashtuns and Balochis respectively).
Parsis (Indian subcontinent)
The Parsi New Year is celebrated as Jamshed Navroz by the entire Parsi community across the world. The festival falls on the first day of the first month of the Fasli calendar, followed by the Parsis. This falls in the month of March, according to the Gregorian calendar. As the day commences with the advent of spring or the vernal equinox, Jamshed Navroz is celebrated with immense fun and fervor. Zoroastrian Parsis observe the festival by performing the rituals and rites with full devotion and duty. A particular sect of Parsis resides in the western part of India and hence, Jamshed Navroz celebrations can be prominently noticed in these regions.
Iranian Americans and the White House
Since 2014 the White House annually celebrates Nowruz in attendance of notable Iranian Americans. Annually, the president furthermore presents his official congratulations to the Iranian-Americans and the Iranian people in Iran and globally as well through a video.
House cleaning and shopping
House cleaning, or shaking the house (خانه تکانی – xane tekāni) as referred to by Persian-speaking Iranians, is commonly performed before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their house and the purchase of new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well the purchase of flowers. In particular, the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.
In association with the "rebirth of nature," extensive spring cleaning is a national tradition observed by almost every household in Iran. This is also extended to personal attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes.
Parsis adorn their houses with different auspicious symbols; namely, stars, butterflies, birds and fish. They order and make new attires especially for the festival. On the day of Navroz, they dress in their new and best clothes and put on gold and silver kustis and caps. They decorate the doors and windows with garlands of roses and jasmines, and use color powders for creating patterns known as rangoli on the steps and thresholds. Fish and floral motifs are a favorite among rangolis and considered highly auspicious.
Festival of Charshanbe Suri
Charshanbe Suri (Persian: Čāršanbe Suri – چارشنبه سوری; Kurdish: Çarşema Sor; Azerbaijani: Çərşənbə Bayramı) is a prelude to the New Year. In Iran, it is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. It is usually celebrated in the evening, and is obtained by people making bonfires and jumping over them, as well as setting off fireworks and sparklers.
In Azerbaijan, where the preparation for Novruz usually begins a month earlier, the festival is held every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday of Novruz. Each Tuesday, people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind. On the holiday eve, the graves of relatives are visited and tended.
Iranians sing the traditional poetic quote zardi ye man az to, sorkhi ye to az man during the festival, which literally means "my yellow is yours, your red is mine"; meaning you want the fire to replace your pallor, sickness, and problems with warmth and energy. Trail mix and berries are also served during the celebration.
Banging spoons (قاشق زنی – Qāšoq zani) is an Iranian tradition practiced on the eve of Charshanbe Suri, which is similar to the Halloween custom Trick-or-treating. It is practiced by people wearing disguises and going door-to-door to bang spoons against plates or bowls and receive packaged snacks.
In Azerbaijan, according to old traditions, children slip around to their neighbors' homes and apartments on the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, knock at the doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds all the while hiding nearby waiting for candies, pastries and nuts.
The ritual of jumping over fire has remained in Armenia in the feast of Trndez, which is a feast of purification in the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholic Churches, celebrated forty days after Jesus's birth.
Among the Yazidis, this festival is celebrated on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April) which marks their New Year's Day.
Festivals of Gul-i-Surkh and Dehqān
In Afghanistan, the festival of Gul-i-Surkh (Persian: گل سرخ; "Red Flower," referring to red tulip flowers) is the principal festival for Nawruz. It is celebrated in Mazar-i-Sharif during the first 40 days of the year, when the tulip flowers grow in the green plains and over the hills surrounding the city. People from all over the country travel to Mazar-i-Sharif to attend the Nawruz festivals. Various activities and customs are performed during the Gul-i-Surkh festival, including:
- Jahenda Bala (Persian: جهنده بالا; "Raising"), which is celebrated on the first day of the New Year, and is attended by high-ranking government officials such as the Vice-President, Ministers, and Provincial Governors – It is a specific religious ceremony performed at the Blue Mosque of Mazar-i-Sharif. The ceremony is performed by raising a special banner whose color configuration resembles Derafsh Kaviani. This is the biggest recorded Nawroz gathering where up to 200,000 people from all over Afghanistan get together to celebrate the ceremony.
- Buzkashi tournament, held during the Gul-i-Surkh festival in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and other northern cities of Afghanistan
The festival of Dehqān (Persian: دهقان; "Farmer") is celebrated on the first day of the New Year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. In recent years, this activity is being performed only in Kabul and other major cities of Afghanistan, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate for watching and observing.
Haft Seen (Persian: Haft Sin – هفت سین; "the seven 'S's") is the traditional table setting of Nowruz in Iran. Typically, before the arrival of Nowruz, family members gather around a table, with the Haft Seen set on it, and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. At that time, the New Year gifts are exchanged.
The setting includes seven items starting with the letter S or Seen (س) in Persian alphabet. The items include:
- Greenery (سبزه – Sabze) – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts grown in a dish
- Samanu (سمنو – Samanu) – a sweet pudding made from germinated wheat
- The dried fruit of the oleaster tree (سنجد – Senjed)
- Garlic (سیر – Sir)
- Apples (سیب – Sib)
- Sumac berries (سماق – Somāq)
- Vinegar (سرکه – Serke)
These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun and Moon.
Other symbolic items which are usually set along the Haft Seen are candles, a mirror, decorating coins, and decorated eggs (sometimes one for each member of the family). A bowl of water with goldfish, a holy book (e.g. the Avesta or Quran) and/or a poetry book (e.g. the Divan of Hafez), and Rose water are also included to the setting.
The custom and the traditional practice of Haft Seen has been changed over times. The initial term Haft Chin meaning "the seven collected," has been gradually altered to the present-day name of the setting.
- Greenery (Sabze) for Haft Seen
In Afghanistan, people prepare Haft Mewa (Persian: Haft Mēwa – هفت میوه; literally "the Seven Fruits") for the New Year's Day. It is similar to a fruit salad, and is made from seven different dried fruits served in their own syrup.
The seven dried fruits prepared for the Haft Mewa setting include:
- Senjed, the dried fruit of the oleaster tree
- Prune, the dry fruit of Apricot
- Almond or other species of plum fruits
In Azerbaijan, the decoration of the festive table is called Khoncha (Azerbaijani: Xonça). It consists of a big silver or copper tray, with Samani placed in the center, as well as candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it.
- Khoncha setting
- Azerbaijani girl with Khoncha
- Khoncha setting
Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz
Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his Christian counterpart Santa Claus. He is the husband of Nane Sarma, who shares a traditional love story with him in which they can meet each other only once a year. He is characterized as an elderly silver-haired man who puts on a felt hat, and has a walking stick, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, a pair of thin-soled giveh, and a pair of linen trousers.
Haji Firuz, with his face covered in soot, is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people who he refers to as his lords. As a blackfaced serf, it is a controversial character, reviewed as a racist symbolism. Therefore, half of his face is sometimes painted white in order to prevent the criticisms.
In the folklore of Afghanistan, Kampirak and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people. He is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature yielding the forces of winter. The tradition is observed in central provinces, specially Bamyan and Daykundi.
Visiting one another
During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to visit one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits, which are usually reciprocated. Typically, the youth will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later.
In Iran, the visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on the list. A typical visit is lesser than 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time.
Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items with tea and other beverages. Many Iranians will throw large Nowruz parties in a central location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.
On the day of Sizdah Be-dar, the greenery (Sabze) grown for the Haft Seen setting is thrown away, particularly into a running water. It is also customary for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the leaves of the greenery before discarding it, expressing a wish to find a partner.
Another custom associated with the day of Sizdah Be-dar is called Lie of the Thirteen, which is the process of lying to someone and making them believe it. It has been directly borrowed from the prank-playing April Fools' Day, and has become in vogue in Iran due to its coincidence with the day of the celebration of Sizdah Be-dar.
Desserts and snacks
- Ajil (Iranians, Kurds): Trail mix
- Baklava (Azerbaijanis, Iranians, Turks): A flaky pastry filled with walnuts, almonds or pistachios, and flavored with rosewater
- Falooda dessert (Parsis): A sweet milk drink made from vermicelli and flavored with rose essence
- Lagan-nu-custard dessert (Parsis): Caramel custard
- Nan berenji (Iranians): Cookies made from rice flour
- Noql (Iranians, Pashtuns, Tajiks): Sugar-coated almonds
- Samanu (Azerbaijanis, Iranians, Kurds) – Sprouted wheat pudding
- Shekerbura (Azerbaijanis): Azerbaijani sweet pastries
- Shorgoghal (Azerbaijanis): Flaky bread with a spice filling
- Ash e reshte (Iranians): A noodle soup traditionally served on the first day of Nowruz.
- Chicken farcha (Parsis): A typical Parsi dish of fried chicken
- Dolma (Azerbaijanis): A traditional dish of Azeri people, cooked just before the New Year – It includes vegetables, meat and rice which have been cooked, then rolled in grape leaves, and cooked again.
- Fried fish and Jelabi (Afghans): The most often meal of the Nawruz picnics in Afghanistan
- Kuku sabzi (Iranians): Herbs and vegetable soufflé, traditionally served for dinner on New Year's – It is a light and fluffy omelet made with parsley, dill herb, coriander greens (cilantro), spinach, spring onion leaves, and chives, mixed with eggs and walnuts.
- Kulcha-e Nowrozī (Pashtuns, Tajiks): Afghan rice cookies which are only baked for Nawruz
- Nawrız koje (Kazakhs): A traditional New Year's Day dish of the Kazakh people, which includes water, meat, salt, flour, grain, and milk
- Reshte polo (Iranians): Rice cooked with noodles
- Sabzi chalaw (Pashtuns, Tajiks): A dish made from rice and spinach
- Sabzi polo with fish (Iranians): A traditional New Year's Day meal of rice with green herbs, served with fish – The traditional seasonings for Sabzi polo are parsley, coriander greens (cilantro), chives, dill herb, and fenugreek greens
There exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology.
The Shahnameh dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature. Jamshid, the mythical Iranian king, perhaps symbolizes the transition of the proto-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry and a more settled life in human history. In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, he is credited with the foundation of Nowruz. The book reads that Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world's creatures gathered in wonder about him and the scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day (Now Ruz). This was the first day of Farvardin, which is the first month of the Iranian calendar.
The first day of the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 20 March. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator. Sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.
In around the 11th century CE, major reforms of the Iranian calendars took place and whose principal purpose were to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowruz, at the vernal equinox. Accordingly, the definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Tusi was the following: "the first day of the official New Year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon."
In the Fasli/Bastani variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, Navroz is always the day of the vernal equinox (nominally falling on March 21).
In the Shahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year's Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. These latter two variants of the calendar, which are only followed by the Zoroastrians of Pakistan and India, celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year's Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti "(day) of penitence" (from patet "confession," hence also repentance and penitence).
Nowruz in religions
Apart from Zoroastrianism, Nowruz has been entered into the contexts of some other religions and faiths.
There exist narrations in the Shia literature about the merits of the day of Nowruz, including the fact that the Day of Ghadir was on that day, and also the recommendation to fast on the day of Nowruz, the latter appearing in the fatwas of major Shia scholars.
Twelver Shia faith and Shia Ismaili faith
Along with Ismailis, Alawites and Alevis, the Twelver Shia also hold the day of Nowruz in high regard.
Here are the events that took place on this amazing day as enumerated by Imam Jafar as Sadiq, Ali's great grandson, in the summary above, source – Muhammad Bakir Majlisi in his Bihar al-Anwar:
• God made a covenant with the souls before creation • Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion • Adam was created • Abraham destroyed the pagan idols that were being worshipped by his father and others • The Quran was revealed to Muhammad, the night of Layla tul Qadr — Night of Power • Muhammad took Ali on his shoulders to smash 360 idols in Mecca • Muhammad declared Ali as his legitimate successor at Gadhir-e Khumm • Ali was born on Navroz (on the solar calendar, the lunar Muslim calendar had not yet been established until the Hijra, the migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina) in the Kaaba that was built by Abraham and Ismael (Ibrahim and Ismail) • Salman Farsi, Al-Fars (Salman the Persian) converted to Islam on Nowruz and used to prepare special sufro (offering of food and sweets) on the day of Nowruz for Muhammad and Ali.
"O you who believe! When you consult the Apostle, then offer something in offering (mehmani, sufro) before your consultation; that is better for you and purer; but if you do not find (the means), then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" – Quran 58.12
Musa al-Kadhim, seventh Shia Imam, explained Nowruz and said: "In Nowruz Allah made a covenant with His servants to worship Him and not to allow any partner for Him. To welcome, His messengers and obey their rulings. This day is the ﬁrst day that the fertile wind blow and the ﬂowers on the earth appeared. The archangel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet, and it is the day that Abraham broke the idols. The day Prophet Muhammad held Ali on his shoulders to destroy the Quraishie's idols in the house of God, the Kaaba."
The day upon which Nowruz falls has been recommended as a day of fasting for Twelver Shia Muslims by Shia scholars, including Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, Imam Khomeini and Ali al-Sistani. The day also assumes special significance for Shias as it was on 21 March 656 AD when the first Imam, Ali, assumed the office of Caliphate.
Naw-Rúz is one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith worldwide. It is the first day of the Bahá'í calendar, occurring on the vernal equinox around March 21. The Bahá'í calendar is composed of 19 months, each of 19 days, and each of the months is named after an attribute of God; similarly each of the nineteen days in the month also are named after an attribute of God. The first day and the first month were given the attribute of Bahá, an Arabic word meaning splendour or glory, and thus the first day of the year was the day of Bahá in the month of Bahá. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, explained that Naw-Rúz was associated with the Most Great Name of God, and was instituted as a festival for those who observed the Nineteen day fast.
The day is also used to symbolize the renewal of time in each religious dispensation. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son and successor, explained that significance of Naw-Rúz in terms of spring and the new life it brings. He explained that the equinox is a symbol of the messengers of God and the message that they proclaim is like a spiritual springtime, and that Naw-Rúz is used to commemorate it.
As with all Bahá'í holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Rúz, and Bahá'ís all over the world celebrate it as a festive day, according to local custom. Persian Bahá'ís still observe many of the Iranian customs associated with Nowruz such as the Haft Sîn, but American Bahá'í communities, for example, may have a potluck dinner, along with prayers and readings from Bahá'í scripture.
- Nowruz Eve among Mazandarani people
- Vernal Equinox
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Nowruz, an ancient spring festival of Persian origin (and the Zoroastrian New Year's day)...
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- `Abdu'l-Bahá (1913-03-21). "Star of the West". 4 (1): 4. republished in Effendi, Shoghi; The Universal House of Justice (1983). Hornby, Helen, ed. Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
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