Nowrouz … Otherwise Known As ‘Iranian New Year’ …

Hello everyone … as you may have guessed from the title today is Nowrouz … otherwise known as the Iranian New Year … The Iranian Calendar is based on the Lunar months and does not take into consideration any leap years … so a year on the Iranian Calendar is exactly 365 days and 1/4 … every year the Nowrouz is at a different time of day … it usually falls on the 21st March but can fall on either the day before or after (this can also depend on your timezone) … anyway this year Nowrouz is on Wednesday 20th March 3pm (Dubai time) …

Last year Perry and I were in Thailand getting MARRIED on a beach on Nowrouz (last year it was on the 21st March) … so we didn’t get to celebrate it in the traditional way … this year is a whole other story …

I’m not too big on religion and neither is Perry but the Iranian Nowrouz is (for me anyway) more of a tradition and cultural thing than it is about religion … its alot of symbolism and its something I always enjoyed growing up … and I like celebrating it …

I thought I’d give some background to Nowrouz and what it all means for those of you who haven’t heard of it before …

The name itself ‘Nowrouz’ literally translates as New Day … and it marks the first day of Spring … originally it was Zoroastrian festival although there is no clear date for when it began … the official year has begun when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, marking the Spring Equinox … The event of Nowrouz itself was recognised by the UN General Assembley in 2010 describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin having been celebrated for over 3,000 years …

There are several elements to the Nowrouz celebrations … Spring cleaning, or ‘Khouneh Tekouni’ (literally means ‘shaking the house’) is commonly carried out in the run up to Nowrouz … Iranian’s start preparing for the Nowrouz with a major spring cleaning of their homes … The extensive spring-cleaning that is a national tradition across Iran, is also extended to clothing, and it is tradition to buy at least one set of new clothes to be worn for the Nowrouz day …

During the 12 day Nowrouz holidays, people are expected to visit one another (families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits … On the first day of Nowrouz, family members gather around the table, with the ‘Haft Seen’ on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of Spring … Later in the day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members … Traditionally the younger ones will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later …

The night before the last Wednesday of the year is celebrated by Iranians as ‘Chahaarshanbe Suri’ which is the Iranian festival of fire … This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad), the symbolism behind this, and most Nowrouz rituals, are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism …

(pictures below from 2008)

181_12069312594_5063_n181_12069322594_7177_nThe tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song ‘Zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man’ … This literally translates to “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My pain and sickness for you (the fire), your strength and health for me” … The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or their spirit, in preparation for new year …

DSC04159Even as kids we loved the whole jumping over fire thing … and when we were too youn to do it on our own our parents and family friends would carry us over …

24 28Haft-Seen or the seven ‘S’s is a traditional table setting for Nowruz … The haft seen table includes seven items all starting with the letter seen in the Farsi alphabet … Haft-Seen was originally called Haftchin derived from the words Chin in Farsi which meant ‘to place’ … and Haft which means the number 7 …

The “Haft Chin” items are:

  1. Mirror – symbolising the Sky
  2. Apple – symbolising the Earth
  3. Candles – symbolising Fire
  4. Golab – rose water symbolising Water
  5. Sabzeh – wheat, or barley sprouts symbolising Plants
  6. Goldfish – symbolising Animals
  7. Painted Eggs – symbolising Humans and Fertility

20070321_3294

We always end up painting our eggs after Charshanbeh Souri with friends who are with us at the time … its always alot of fun and everyone really gets into it …

DSC06931 DSC06938

The name and therefore the original custom changed due to the sound Ch not being present in the Arabic language leading to its replacement by the letter S … The invasion of Persia by the Arabs in 650AD brought cultural transformation to the local Persians … This forced the local population to adapt and replace many Zoroastrian customs and words with Arabic and Islamic concepts … Zoroastrianism was replaced by Islam as the religion of Iran … The Arabic language was heavily enforced upon the Persians and other Farsi speaking populations throughout Greater Iran and surrounding areas … The Arabic assimilation of the Persians and other Iranian groups continued until the revival of the Persian language and culture in 819AD although the term and custom of Haft Chin had evolved into Haft Sin after nearly two centuries of Arab rule …

Two versions of my Mum’s Haft Seen from two different years (she changes it up with the colours to keep it interesting) …

DSC069931198126_10150114893187595_7846987_nThe Haft Seen items are:

  1. Sabzeh – wheat, barley, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish – symbolising rebirth
  2. Samanu -sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolising affluence
  3. Senjed – dried oleaster fruit – symbolising love
  4. Sir – garlic – symbolising medicine
  5. Sib – apples – symbolising beauty and health
  6. Somāq – sumac fruit – symbolising (the color of) sunrise
  7. Serkeh – vinegar – symbolising old-age and patience

Other items that are traditionally included on the Haft Seen also include the following:

  1. Sekkeh – Coins – representative of wealth
  2. Traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi)
  3. A holy book (e.g., the Qur’an) and/or a poetry book

_MG_4085-1 _MG_4040-1As you can see from my photos our Haft-Seen has the majority of the items … its sort of an amalgamation of the original Haft-Chin and the Haft-Seen … although it doesn’t have all the proper seven ‘S’ items I still do have seven things on there that start with S in the Farsi alphabet …

_MG_4080-1 _MG_4081-1So our Haft – Seen includes the following – Sabzeh, Hyacinths, Mirror, Candles, Flowers, Goldfish (a toy goldfish), Apple, Garlic, Sumac, Vinegar, Coins, and Painted Eggs …

_MG_4036-1I was quite fortunate with the Sabzeh as I had left it too late to grow my own … but luck was on my side when I went to Carrefour and they had a whole section of little Sabzeh and Hyacinth pots in what was quite clearly their Nowrouz section …

_MG_4076-1 _MG_4062-1The traditional Nowrouz meal is ‘Sabzi Polo Mahi’ – green herb rice with fish … my Mum always makes this every year and I battled my way through the Herb section at the supermarket with all the other Iranian women trying to get the best bunches of Corriander and Parsley … in order to have a go at making it myself this evening … I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow … (again picture is of my Mum’s cooking) …

196601_10150114893317595_5813632_nThe final celebration that marks the end of the Nowrouz festivities is celebrated on the 13th day of the new year called ‘Sizdeh Bedar ‘, literally means ‘passing of the 13th day’ and figuratively means ‘Passing the bad luck of the 13th’ … This is a day of celebration in the open, often accompanied by music and dancing at family picnics … 

There was this one Park we used to go to just outside of London … one of the few places left where you were allowed to have an open BBQ … first year we went it was dead quiet … second year it was like the whole Iranian population of Iran showed up …

DSC07699-1 DSC07704-1There was even a DJ blasting out music all day in the park … funny thing was no one had formally organised the event … everyone just showed up …

DSC07065Sizdah bedar celebrations stem from the ancient Persians’ belief that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years at the end of which the sky and earth collapsed in chaos. This is why Nowruz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.

At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen (which has symbolically collected all sickness and bad luck) is thrown into running water to get rid of the demons from the household … Another tradition associated with this day is Dorugh-e Sizdah, literally meaning “the lie of the thirteenth”, which is the process of lying to someone and making them believe it … basically an Iranian version of April Fools Day …

11 DSC07689-1I’m not sure yet what we will do for Sizdeh Bedar this year … Charshanbeh Souri was last night so Perry and I just jumped over a candle … maybe we will go for a picnic if the weather is good …

This year the Nowrouz just sort of crept up on me … I had a sudden realisation that I had left it abit late to sort some of the things out that I needed … but next year I’ll be better prepared …

That’s it for this post … if your still reading then thanks for sticking with it … I know it was a long one …

Till next time …

Mina X

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