Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nowruz the Persian New Year

Nowruz the Persian New Year

It’s difficult to believe as I’m writing this that spring is here. For many it’s just a marking that warmer weather is on the way, but for the Persian culture it means much more than that: it is their new year, called Nowruz (literally translated as The New Day) and they mark it with many traditions that are celebrated by Iranians and ethnic cultures that were under Persian influence.

Originally begun under the Zoroastrianism religion, it has developed into a secular observance and has become a time for family and friends to gather together and celebrate, no matter where or what country they now live in.  This may have been the origin of spring cleaning as houses are stripped clean for the event before the New Year celebration. Several days before the New Year Chahārshanbe Suri is celebrated when everyone goes outside and lights bonfires.  It is good luck to jump over the fire.  It is a triumph of light over darkness, spring over winter, which is also a Zoroastrian tradition. Check out Fireworks Wednesday.

But the main event is the Haft Sin.  Literally it means 7 items placed on a table that begin with the letter “S” in Farsi. Yes there are more than 7 items listed here but the more the better!
Seeb-apple (the earth)
Sabzeh-wheat (growth)
Samanu-a sweet pudding (wealth)
Senjed-a dried fruit (love)
Seer-garlic (health)
Somaq-dried berries (sunrise)
Serkeh-vinegar (age)
Sonbol-hyacinth (growth and what a wonderful aroma!)
Sekkeh-coins (wealth)
Also included are:
A mirror (the sky)
Painted eggs (fertility)
Goldfish (animals)

And what Persian celebration would be complete without delicious, special foods. It is deemed good luck to eat sabzi polo mahi. This is a fish and rice dish cooked with green herbs symbolizing…what else…the growth associated with spring. And for dessert, baklava and samanu.  On the thirteenth day (the unlucky day) after NowRuz, everyone goes outside for picnics and the custom is to bring your sabzeh (the wheat you've grown) with you and throw it into a running stream to get rid of your bad luck.

So when you meet Iranians in the next few days, you may wish them a Happy New Year or in Farsi “Aideh Shomah Mobarak” or literally Happy Party! And may spring be a happy and prosperous time for all of us and above all green!

For more information about the Persian culture, here is some material you might want to check out:
Persian Mirrors by Elaine Sciolino
One Thousand & One Persian-English Proverbs: Learning Language and Culture through Commonly Used Sayings / compiled & illustrated by Simin K. Habibian.
The  Story of the Revolution (Website) BBC World Service Persian Story of the Revolution
Wonders of Persia = Zībāʼīhā-yi Īrān / written by Nazli Irani Monahan
And search under Iran culture in our catalog  for other material including a large selection of Iranian films Iran films.

lisa n

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