Iranian Nowruz: New Year in Iran and the West

The best time for celebrating a new year is “Spring” and the spring equinox, that is the time of renewal and rebirth of the nature. The ancient Iranians were wise enough to choose the first day of spring and the spring equinox as the first day of their new year. The Iranian New Year or Nowruz, that is celebrated from March 21st (the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere) to April 1st, is one of the oldest ceremony of the world. The history of ancient Persia tells that the ancient Nowruz belongs to the mythical age, i.e. more than 15,000 years ago. It’s funny to know that Nowruz is secular and irreligious, while Christmas and the new year in the West and the Christian world is totally religious, and is connected to Jesus Christ birthday (that actually is Mithra’s date of birth). We have already written about Iranian ancient Nowruz, its history and its traditions . But thinking about Nowruz and its ancient traditions can show you many things. For instance, “Haft Sinn” (Nowruz Table) in Nowruz is like “Christmas tree” in Christmas.

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Nowruz and its ancient traditions are still alive in Iran. In the month (Esfand) leading up to Nowruz, households purchase new clothes, spring-clean the home, and make preparations for “Haft Sinn”, that literally means Seven ‘S’. “Haji Firuz”, Nowruz’s characteristic herald with black-painted face and a red garb on, declares that Nowruz is in the air. And it’s very similar to Santa Clause, isn’t it? The people go shopping and buy many things, including Ajil, fruits, Sabzeh and goldfish. The Nowruz Shopping ends before the “Sal Tahvil” moment, or when the new year begins. As we said before, last year (1390) started at 2:41a.m. of Monday, 21st March 2011, and this year (1391), the ‘Sal Tahvil’ moment is 8:44 a.m. of Tuesday 21st March 2012 (Iran time zone is GMT+3:30). The new year moment is not fixed in Iran, because the exact time of vernal equinox is not fixed. As a convention, each year you should add about 6 hours to the previous “Sal Tahvil” time. So the next year (1392) will begin at about 15:30 p.m. in Iran.

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The theme of renewal is an important aspect of the customs surrounding Nowruz – personal renewal, a renewal of the home, etc. “Haft Sinn”, the Nowruz table or the Nowruz spread, has the theme of renewal and life, too. “Haft Sinn”, that has a significance to Nowruz in the way a Christmas tree has to Christmas, contains seven items whose names begin with “S” in Persian alphabet, and its main items symbolize the renewal and rebirth of the nature, specially “Sabzeh” (sprouts) and “Sonbol” (hyacinth). Other important items of “Haft Sinn” are a source of fire (candles), a bowl of water with gold fish, a bunch of flowers, fruits specially apple, and colored eggs that symbolize the main elements of the nature. A mirror, a poetry book or a holy book, and Aajil are other items of “Haft Sinn” and have their own meanings, but nowadays no one cares about the meaning of Haft Sinn’s items. It’s just a cool ancient tradition and the people like it. The main items of “Haft Sinn” are more than the seven items that begin with “S”, and some of these non-S items, like colored eggs, candle, Ajil, water and goldfish, are more important and older than the S-items.

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In Persian, ‘Now‘ means new and ‘ruz‘ means day. So, Nowruz means “New Day” (some scholars say “new” in English language has a Persian root [‘Now’]). Nowruz is very old, and belongs to the mythical age, before the last ice age. Zoroastrians call Nowruz, Jamshedi Nowruz, attributing the origins of the festival to legendary Iranian King Jamshid, who was the grandson of Hushang, who himself was the grandson of Keyumars, the first man and the first king of the world . Zoroastrians believe that Nowruz is much more older than their own religion, Zoroastrianism, that is an Iranian religion and the first monolithic religion in the world. In fact, even in Zoroaster’s time, i.e. 4000 years ago, Nowruz was an ancient tradition ! Anyway, “Sabzeh” and growing it for Nowruz is very old, as well. About ten days before Nowruz, households start to grow sprouted grains, primarily wheat, but also barley, lentils, and other vegetable seeds. It’s called “Sabzeh”, and is the symbol of Nowruz and the new year in Iran. Some people buy Sabzeh, but many grow it. “Sabzeh”, Sonbol, and other flowers are the main elements of Nowruz and “Haft Sinn” since the ancient time in Iran.

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The flowers and plants are ancient symbols of Nowruz, and these items are the best symbols for the New Year in the world. Some group of Aryans in Europe (specially in Germany) still have a special ceremony in 21st March, for the beginning of spring, that is the last remaining of Nowruz traditions in Europe. As we said before, the Aryans who immigrated from Iran, that means “the land of Aryans”, to Europe had Aryan Culture and were familiar with Nowruz and other Iranian traditions, and that’s why you can see many similarities between the Iranian traditions and the Western (Christian) traditions. Anyway, the special meal in the first day of Nowruz is “Sabzi Polo” (rice and herbs) that Iranians eat it with their family and friends on the first day of Nowruz. Iranians eat “Sabzi Polo” with fish, that some call it “”Sabzi Polo Mahi” (Sabzi Polo with fish). In fact, rice with green herbs served with either fish or “Kuku Sabzi” (vegetable cutlet/ green herbs cutlet) that is very tasty and delicious.

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Among all Persian ancient ceremonies, Nowruz is the older one. Nowruz has always been the most important festival for Iranians, and the people try to be happy in Nowruz that is the most joyful Iranian ceremony, and the season for travel and receiving guests. Of course, many love travel, but not receiving guests. Spring cleaning the home that is called Khaneh (home or house) Tekani (shake-up) has a special meaning: “The home is also ready to receive guests during the customary Nowruz visitations”. But in the recent years, many don’t like Nowruz visitations and receiving guests, that sometimes becomes very boring and very annoying. They prefer to pretend that they want to travel and are not in their home ! It’s a stupid trick for avoiding boring and annoying traditions. In fact, the relatives that don’t see each other during a year, or don’t like each other at all, visit each other in Nowruz, only because it’s a tradition, and that’s why many hate this sort of visitation. Some say: “Nowruz visitations need a revolution. It would be better if only the people who really like each other visit each other in Nowruz”. It’s not wrong. It’s what the younger generations of Iranians try to do it in the recent years.

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Nowruz reminds us that we are getting old quickly, and our life and our time pass very quickly. Nowruz reminds us that life is short and we should not waste our life by the routine jobs. Nowruz reminds us that we don’t have enough time and we should use our time and our life better. Nowruz reminds us that many things in this shitty world are really worthless and stupid, and we should try to care about what make us really and permanently happy. Nowruz reminds us that there are many existential issues and many unsolved issues in this shitty world, and the life is so meaningless if we just care about the low level needs (the animal needs). Nowruz reminds us of many things, that
unfortunately, most of them are tragic facts. But we should not forget that Nowruz’s joys and sorrows tell us that we should live our own life and we should try to fulfill some of our human potential before it’s too late. I wish you a happy life, a joyful time, and a happy new year.

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