Nowruz (Norouz or Norooz), 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". Now-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.).
Assumed image of the ancient Aryan Prophet Zarathustra or (Zartosht)
Iranians consider Nourouz 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.
|A Traditional "Haft-Seen"
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-Rouz Mobarak (Happy No-Rooz, Happy New Year);
Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak (Happy New Year to you);
No-Rouz 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.