March 25, 2019
Happy Spring! This past week Iranian and Central Asian communities celebrated the ancient Zoroastrian new year holiday Nowruz.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox (March 21), and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It is secular holiday for many, and a religious holiday for Zoroastrians, Bahais, and some Muslim communities.
There are many diverse rituals associated with this 3000-year-old celebration. Activities include: spring housecleaning and purchasing of new clothes, visiting loved ones and giving gifts, and a fire-jumping festivity known as Charshanbe suri. At this purification ritual Iranians sing “my yellow is yours, your red is mine” (zardi ye man az to, sorkhi ye to az man), asking the fire to take away ill-health and problems and replace them with warmth, health, and energy.
Another practice important to Nowruz is the displaying of the Haft-sin, a table filled with symbolic items all beginning with the sound “S” in the Persian language. These typically include: Sabze (wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish), Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ), Senjed (Persian olive), Serke (vinegar), Seeb (apple), Sir (garlic), and Somāq (sumac). The Haft-sin may also include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, goldfish in a bowl of water, coins, flowers, and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran, Bible, Avesta, the Shanameh of Ferdowsi, or the divān of Hafez is often included in the display.
Nowruz season with all its associated rituals typically lasts two weeks, and during this time there are many events and social gatherings. It is a busy time of year for Persian dance artists and musicians who are invited to help celebrate the new year through joyful performance.
May this celebration of spring bring renewed hope, and may we cherish all that brings joy and breathes fresh life into our world. Nowruz Mobarak!