Persian New Year – Norooz


Brief History:

Persian new year is called Norooz (can also be spelled Nowruz, Nawroz, Noroz), which marks the arrival of the spring. No means new and Rooz means day.

Norooz has been celebrated for thousands of years in Iran and Central Asian countries formerly belonging to the ancient Persian Empire. Today, Norooz is the world’s only event celebrated at exactly the same time all over the world.  The celebration is not linked to religion and is based on the spring equinox, many claim the celebrations around Norooz and call it, for example, the Bahai New Year. But the Bahais originate in Iran and that is why they celebrate the Persian New Year – not because they are Bahais! We Iranians do not like to have the festivities linked to a religion. The Kurds also call it for the Kurdish New Year – even this is wrong – they celebrate Persian New Year because they have their roots in the old Persian Empire! Nothing else.

Last Wednesday of the old year, Iranians celebrate Chahar Shanbe Suri or the fire festival as it is also called. Small fires are set up and people jump over the flames and reading jingles: “Zardie man az to, sorkhie two az man” which means: “take my yellow color and give me your red color” and metaphorically means that the fire will give warmth and health and take the sickness from one. You simply want to get rid of bad luck, accidents, and illnesses from the past year.

The fire festival is celebrated in Sweden, the fact is that it is the largest fire festival in the world outside Iran!

Norooz is deeply rooted in the Persian mythology. Norooz focuses on the philosophical aspects of the victory of light over darkness, the victory of good over evil, and the victory of spring over the cold winter. According to ancient mythological stories written in Persian epic Shahnameh, Norooz was introduced under the mythical king Jamshid. Jamshid defeated the evil demons and made them his servants, seized their treasures and jewels. He became ruler of everything on earth except heaven, while the war was taking place between King Jamshid and the demons, the world was destroyed, the earth turned into a dark and lifeless place.

King Jamshid ordered the demons to build him a throne of the jewels he had seized. When the throne was done, he sat on it, commanding the demons to lift him high up in heaven. Sunlight met the jewels of the throne and the sky was lit in all colors and revived all the trees and plants that started to grow and were full of leaves. All people were impressed by King Jamshid and his victory over the demons and gave him even more treasures and jewels. King Jamshid had saved his people from a tough winter that would have killed all the creatures on earth. This day was called Norooz and marked the first day of the new year. Mythological survival stories with Jamshid as protagonist are considered mythical symbols regarding the historical events when Indo-Iranian Arians abandoned their way of life as hunters and nomads and became settlers on the Iranian mainland. The settlers were dependent to their crops, which in turn were dependent on the seasons. The equinox was, therefore, an incredibly traditions

Before the new year, it’s customary to do a (Khone takooni) which means spring cleaning. New clothes are bought to wear in the new year. Every year, you have to find out exactly what time the Persian New Year will occur. Norooz will occur on 20th of March 2018 at 19:45 (Central Europe), the time when the New Year takes place is called “Tahvil” and is different from year to year. It occurs exactly when the sun passes the equator. No matter where you live the celebration takes place at exactly the same time all over the world. The Persian calendar is based on the solar calendar and was perfected by the famous mathematician Omar Khayam and is one of the most accurate calendars today.

A traditional table (Sofreye hat sin) is prepared with flowers, goldfishes, mirrors, candles, colored eggs and seven things starting with the letter S. The table and its decoration lasts throughout the Persian New Year lasting for 13 days. Why the letter S one might wonder? At Norooz people from all over the old Persian Kingdom came with gifts to the king – it was carried on a Sini (tray) therefore the letter S.

The seven things that are on the table:

Sabzeh: (greens) lentils, grain or wheat growing on a plate symbolizing renewal. Finnish people have it on their Easter table and call it Easter grass.

Samanu: (Memma in Finnish) is a thick, sweet pudding made of wheat, symbolizing prosperity. Finnish people have also mämmi on their easter table.

Senjed: Dried fruit of the lotus flower symbolizing love

Sir: (Garlic), symbolizes health

Sib: (apples), symbolizing beauty

Somaq: (Sumac berry), symbolizes dawn and light’s victory over the darkness.

Serkeh: (vinegar), which symbolizes age and patience.


In addition to the above, tradition is also included:

The epic book Shahnameh, Hafez poetry. Then some families have the Quran on the table – others have Avesta or other holy books as a symbol of wisdom. But Iranians generally avoid mixing Norooz with religious books or ceremonies.

A mirror as a symbol of the sky and consciousness as well as self-reflection.

Candles as a symbol of the good light and divinity.

Coin as a symbol of wealth.

Live goldfish symbolizing life.

Hyacinth flowers as a symbol of a heavenly scent in connection with the arrival of spring.

Painted eggs as a symbol of creation and fertility.

On March 20, 2018, at 19:45, all family members gather around the Norooz table waiting with excitement for the exact time of spring equinox. At this moment people hug and kiss each other and congratulate the new year. Some families share gifts in the form of things before it was tradition to give the children new money. Musical instruments are played and the whole house is full of joy.

Traditional Norooz dinner:
Herb rice is served with fish as a symbol of abundance.

The ending:
After 13 days, Sizdeh Bedar will be celebrated, literally meaning “getting rid of the thirteenth.” Families go for a Picnic in nature and throw Sabzeh (the green) that has been on the new year table in a river or lake as a symbol of plant return to nature, while at the same time it is customary to wish for something. With this, the celebrations will end until next year.

What do you say to an Iranians who celebrate Norooz: You can say Norooz Pirooz!

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