Nowruz: A lesser-known new year holiday in the US

By: Alireza Majidi

Iran has a late new year celebration day compared to America

Mar. 20 was one of the most important days for the Persian speakers around world. From the first day of spring when the plants, animals, and our souls reunite again. The day when the blossoms wake up from the winter dreams and open the green carpet all over the planet. The day of forgiving each other and taking lesson from our failures to have a victorious year – is called Nowruz.

Iran is completely different during Nowruz. In Shiraz, the smell of spring rain and a thousand kind of flowers is the scenery as we eat Palodeh, a Shirazi dessert which we believe it is the signature of this city. Almost a week before the new year, each family starts cleaning their houses, swiping out the bad spirits lying down under the old carpets and in the unknown places of their houses for a year.

We have another festival which is two days before the new year called Chaharshanbeh Souri. Lots of children and teenagers go to the streets to see the fire working and cracking their hand-made firecrackers. However, this is not the traditional way. We used to make a huge fire at night when the weather is cold and get together with our friends and family members and bring some nuts and dried fruits. Then we sing lots of songs and play the guitar till the midnight.

But, Iranians have always had a special attention to fire. In temples of the Zartosht, there are some fireplaces which never die. Zartosht do not pray to the fire, but rather, prayers go to the God Yazdan. Zartosht is also known as Zoroastrianism, which is one of the oldest religions in the world, dating back thousands of years ago.

Just like Christmas has the iconic Christmas tree, Iranians have the Seven Sin Table Cloth which is an antique table cloth with an eastern design. We put seven objects which their names start with the sound “s.” Sin is how Iranians pronounce the letter “s.”

  • Seeb (apple): The symbol of health. Eat an apple a day, keep a doctor away.
  • Sabzeh (grass): The symbol of freshness of the nature. We also put a beautiful flower pot containing hyacinths, in Iran it is called Sonbol.
  • Senjed (oleaster): As the symbol of both love and logic, meaning we should make a balance between them. Don’t get blind by love and don’t get rock hearted by logics.
  • Somac: This is a kind of sour seasoning as the symbol of endurance.
  • Seer (garlic): For removing all the bad spirits from our life, to have a year without illness or bad luck.
  • Sekkeh (coin): It can be gold, silver, or just regular coins as the symbol of wealth and money.
  • Samanoo: This is a Persian sweet which is a brown pudding made of wheat germ extract for bringing blessing.

Of course, we put other objects on that cloth such as mirror, candle, boiled colored egg, Serkeh (vinegar), nuts, the holy book, and the King Book written by Ferdowsi, the savior of the Persian language. The main dish of Nowruz is “Sabzi Polo ba Mahi,” vegetables and rice with baked fish and saffron.

We have a two-week holiday and during the thirteenth day, called Sizdeh Bedar, all of us go to the untouched jungles and mountains where someday it was the battlefield of Alexander the Great and Ariobarzanes of Persia to have a picnic and admire the nature.

However, Nowruz is not just for Iranians, but it is for every single human. You can start your year right now just like the other creatures by planting a flower, enjoying the spring breeze, or by saying to your friends “happy new year.”

Image credit: Alireza Majidi

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