People of Persian (Iranian) heritage celebrate their New Year on the first day of Spring. They call it Noorouz, which means “new day”. About two weeks before the equinox, preparations for Noorouz begin. These preparations include: cleaning the house, washing windows, throwing out the old and replacing it with the new.
On the last Tuesday of the year, a ceremony takes place where people jump over a fire. This ceremony is called shabeh chahar shanbeh souri, or “ the last Tuesday night of the year”. The significance is to strengthen the spring sun and to help it triumph over the dark and cold winter. Following the fire festivities, children partake in a ritual similar to trick or treating.
One of the most important activities is to prepare a haft seen, the seven symbolic objects beginning with the letter “S” in the Persian language. It is popularly believed that each item symbolises the seven guardian angels of birth, life, health, happiness, prosperity, beauty and light. The most common objects are:
- Sabzi- sprouted seeds for food and cultivation of the earth;
- Samano- (sweet pudding) made of germinated wheat; Symbol of bravery
- Seeb(apple) for happiness;
- Seerkeh(vinegar) as a symbol of preservation;
- Seer (garlic); symbol of medicine and health
- Senjed (Sea-Buckthorn) a symbol of love
- Sekeh (coins) a symbol for wealth
And sonbol a hyacinth flower growing in a pot to show the earth’s productivity.
In order to complete the table, there are other symbols used such as colored eggs, which symbolize life. Candles and the book of Shahnameh or Hafez, which are all placed along side of the other items.
Finally, one prepares sabzy polo mohy, which is rice with white fish. It is the last dinner or lunch that will be served before the new year. The meal symbolises bounty (rice, growth (herbs) and freshness (fish). Upon the completion of preparations, everyone anxiously awaits the arrival of the new season. The new year begins as soon as the sun crosses the Equator, which usually occurs on March 20th or 21st. However, this year, it will happen on March 20th at …….. a time carefully estimated in advance. At this point, family members embrace and say “ Noorouz peerooz” to one another, then parents and children visit their elderly relatives. They exchange gifts that are known as aydddy, which are usually in the form of money.
This celebration goes on for 13 days. The last day is called sizdeh beh dar. The entire family goes outdoors to enjoy sSpring and perhaps a picnic. Most people tie grass strings together, which signify the hope that their wish will come true by the end of the new year. This is done especially for single people who wish to get married.
Let us hope that the arrival of the New Year will usher in hope, prosperity, health and joy for all.