Persian New Year – Norooz Pirooz!

Haft Sin – traditional Persian New Year – table setting

On the 20th of March 2021 Iranians all over the world celebrate The Persian New Year Noroo!

Brief history:

The Persian New Year is called Norooz (can also be spelled Nowruz, Nawroz, Noroz), which marks spring’s arrival. No means new, and Rooz means a day (New Day)

Norooz is a festivity that has been celebrated for thousands of years in Iran and Central Asian countries that formerly belonged to the ancient Persian Empire. Today, Norooz is the world’s only event to be celebrated simultaneously all over the world. The celebration is all about the vernal equinox and has nothing to do with religion. Different cultures claim the festivities around Norooz and call it, for example, the Bahai New Year. However, the Baha’is have their origins in Iran, and that is why they celebrate the Persian New Year – not because they are Baha’is! We Iranians do not want the festivities to be linked to religion. The Kurds also claim and call it the Kurdish New Year – this is also wrong – they celebrate it because they have their roots in the ancient Persian Empire! Nothing else!

On the last Wednesday of the old year, Iranians celebrate Chahar Shanbe Suri, or the fire festival as it is also called. They set up fireplaces in smaller formats, and people jump over the flames and read rhymes: “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man,” which means “take my yellow color and give me your red color”, and metaphorically means that the fire should give health and warmth and take all diseases from one.  We want to get rid of bad luck, accidents, and illnesses from the past year.
The bonfire is celebrated big in Sweden; the fact is that it is a huge bonfire celebration in the world outside Iran!

Norooz is deeply rooted in Persian mythology. Norooz focuses on the philosophical aspects of the victory of light over darkness, the victory of good over evil, the victory of spring over the cold winter. According to ancient mythological stories written in the Persian epic Shahnameh, Norooz started under the mythical king Jamshid. Jamshid defeated the evil demons and made them his servants, confiscating their treasures and jewels. He became the ruler of everything on earth except heaven; while the war was going on between King Jamshid and the demons, the world was destroyed, the earth was transformed 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 ready, he sat on it and commanded the demons to lift him high up in the sky. Sunbeams met the throne’s jewels, and the sky was illuminated in all the colors of the world and revived all the trees and plants that became green and full of leaves. All people were impressed by King Jamshid and his victory over the demons and showered him with even more treasures and jewels. King Jamshid had saved his people from a harsh winter that would have killed all creatures on earth. This day was called Norooz and marked the first day of the new year. Mythological survival stories with Jamshid as the main character are considered mythical symbols regarding the historical events when Indo-Iranian Aryans abandoned their lifestyle as nomads/hunters and became settlers on the Iranian mainland. The settlers were highly dependent on their crops, which in turn depended on the seasons. The vernal equinox was, therefore, a significant event in the lives of the ancient Persians.

Traditions

Before the New Year, it is customary to make one (Khone takooni), which means spring cleaning. Traditionally people wear new clothes during the transition to the new year. Every year one has to find out exactly what time the Persian New Year falls. 2021 is Saturday, March 20 at 10:37 (Swedish time); when the New Year takes place is called “Tahvil” and is different from year to year. It occurs precisely when the vernal equinox takes place and is celebrated at precisely the same time all over the world. The Persian calendar is based on the solar calendar and perfected by the famous mathematician Omar Khayam; it is one of the most accurate calendars today.

A traditional table (Sofreye haft sin) is set with flowers, goldfishes, a mirror, candles, colored eggs, and seven things that start with the letter S. The table setting lasts throughout the Persian New Year, which lasts for 13 days. Why the letter S, one may wonder? At Norooz, people from all over the ancient Persian Empire came with gifts to the king on a tray (Sini)  hence the letter S.

The seven things that most Iranians have on the Norooz table (haft sin) are as follows:

Sabzeh: (greenery) lentil, barley or wheat that grows on a plate and symbolizes renewal. The Finnish people have it on their Easter table as well and call it Easter grass.
Samanu:  is a thick, sweet pudding made entirely from germinated wheat. Samanu symbolizes prosperity. Finns also have Samanu on their Easter table.
Senjed: Dried fruit of the lotus tree symbolizes love
Sir: (Garlic) symbolizes health
Sib: (apples) symbolizes beauty
Somaq: (Sumac) symbolizes dawn and the victory of light over darkness.
Serkeh: (vinegar), symbolizes age and patience.

In addition to the above, it is also a tradition to include:
The epic book Shahnameh and Hafez’s book of poems. Some families have the Koran on the table – others have Avesta or other holy books as a symbol of wisdom. Nevertheless, Iranians, in general, are reluctant to confuse Norooz with religious books or ceremonies.

A mirror is a symbol of heaven and consciousness, as well as self-reflection.
Candles symbolize light and divinity.
Coins symbolize wealth.
Live goldfish are symbolizing life.
Hyacinth flowers are 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 at 10:37 (Swedish time), all family members will gather around the Norooz table and wait with excitement for the moment when the spring equinox takes place (at precisely the moment when the sun crosses the earth’s equator). At this moment, they hug and kiss each other and congratulate the new year. In the past young children were given new money, and in some families, gifts are exchanged.     Another important tradition is to visit family and friends – in a special order, you visit the oldest first to congratulate the new year and they, in turn, repay the visit – you can say that it is a carousel of visits for a few days. It is indeed a joyful celebration.

Traditional Norooz dinner:

The menu consists of herb rice with fish as a symbol of abundance.

The conclusion:

After 13 days, Sizdeh Bedar is celebrated, which means “to get rid of the thirteenth.” Families go on a picnic out in nature and throw Sabzeh (the greenery) that has stood on its own in rivers or lakes as a symbol of the plant’s return to nature; at the same time, it is customary to wish for something. With this, the festivities end next year.

What can one say to an Iranian who celebrates Norooz:e? The correct way to congratulate a friend or a colleague is to say: Norooz Pirooz!

Enjoy!

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