Celebrated for over 3 thousand years, in the Persian calendar the New Year corresponds to the first day of the month of Farvardin, the first month of spring. In the Farsi language, Nowruz means "new day", indicating a new beginning, a new life.
It is an ancient festival, linked to the Zoroastrian religion, a cult practiced in the Persian Empire from the 6th century BC to the times of the Achaemenid dynasty. It is an ancestral celebration, joyful and joyful, connected to the idea of the rebirth of nature and pervaded by a rich symbolism.
Nowruz, where it is celebrated
Nowruz is currently celebrated not only in Iran, but in all those countries that were part of the Persian Empire, as well as the Iranian communities scattered throughout the world.
It is therefore celebrated in Afghanistan, Albania, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in Georgia, Azerbaijan, India, Turkey, Pakistan, in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan).
There are more than 300 million people that the next spring equinox will welcome the start of the New Year. A very important anniversary, therefore, so much so that in 2010 the UN General Assembly recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nowruz (although in reality it is celebrated on the day of the arrival of spring).
Nowruz, the preparations
Preparations for this festival begin during the month of Esfand, the last month of the year, approximately 10 days before the New Year. You have to clean the house, decorate it with fresh flowers, plant seeds, buy new clothes. All activities are aimed at renewal and the celebration of a new beginning.
The night between the last Tuesday and the last Wednesday of the year, called Charshanbe Souri, is a special occasion, in which we pay homage to the fire, the cornerstone of the Zoroastrian religion, in purifying function.
In the streets, bonfires are lit, people have to jump into the fire and recite a ritual invocation: "give me the red color and take the yellow of my pallor". Through this formula one yields one's own weakness to obtain health and strength in return.
The ashes of these fires must be buried away from the houses, as they symbolize all the pain and negativity accumulated during the coming year.
The last Thursday of the year is dedicated to the cult of the dead. The veneration of the ancestors is an integral part of this celebration that celebrates life also through the manifestation of a profound respect for dead relatives.
Nowruz, New Year 2018
To begin the festivities, the Persians await the exact moment of Nowruz, which unlike our New Year's Eve, is not fixed, but varies according to the equinox and the solar calendar. The Persians were very precise in calculating the New Day, as very skilled and experienced in mathematics and astronomical disciplines.
Nowruz begins at the exact moment when the sun enters the constellation of Aries, crossing the celestial equator. This year the Persian New Year will anticipate a day, taking place at 11:28 am on March 20, which corresponds to 1:58 pm in Iran. We will celebrate the beginning of the year 1397.
Nowruz, the Haft-Sin ritual
On Nowruz day, families usually pass it around the laid table, which is prepared according to the Haft-Sin rule: you have to set the table with 7 dishes that all begin with the letter S, which in Farsi is pronounced Sin.
It is a very beautiful ritual with a strong symbolic connotation. Each food represents a specific characteristic that we hope will accompany the New Year.
The 7 elements are:
Sabzeh: sprouts of wheat, lentils or barley, which must be tall and very green, symbolizing rebirth
Sib: a shiny red apple, which symbolizes beauty
Senjed: dry jujube, representing love and hospitality
Sir: garlic, which symbolizes medicine
Somaq: sommaco (a red spice generally used to flavor meat), which represents the color of the aurora and therefore the victory of the light of good over the forces of evil
Serkeh: vinegar, which represents age and patience.
Other symbolic elements of Nowruz
Furthermore, on the tablecloth there are other elements, also with an important symbolic meaning:
a basket containing painted eggs, hoping for fertility;
a candle, which according to the Zoroastrian cult symbolizes light and good;
an ampoule containing a little goldfish, which represents life;
some coins (Sekkeh), symbol of prosperity and wealth;
a bottle of rose water with magical powers.
In a brazier, on the other hand, they are placed:
the wild rue, or a sacred herb, similar to incense, whose smoke has the power to ward off evil spirits;
a vase of hyacinths or daffodils;
a mirror, which reflects the images of Creation, an event that according to the Persian tradition took place on the first day of spring
the Qur'an, or another sacred book according to the faith of the family
The celebrations last 12 days and end with the Sizdah bedar.
You breathe a happy and convivial atmosphere, banquet and exchange gifts, dance and sing in company, you visit relatives and friends.
Sizdah bedar: the conclusion of Nowruz
On the thirteenth day the Sizdah bedar is celebrated, which in Farsi means '13 outdoors', an event that marks the end of the festivities. According to tradition, to ward off evil spirits, one must spend the day in the countryside or in the open air.
When they come to visit us, finding no one in the house, the evil spirits are forced to leave. The Sizdah bedar is celebrated in the open air with relatives and friends, in a carefree and joyous atmosphere, between songs and dances.
The buds used for the Sabzeh of Haft-Sin are thrown into the water of a river, symbolizing the will to get rid of all the negativity that they have accumulated in the first 12 days of the year. Before throwing the sprouts into the river, the unmarried girls intertwine their leaves, expressing their desire to find a husband before the next Sizdah bedar. When the knot melts, their wish will be granted.
Nowruz mobarak! Happy new year to everyone!