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Maryam Karimijafari talks us through the history and traditions of Nowruz, Persian New Year
March 19, 2021

Historically speaking, the New Year’s day in Iran and many other Farsi speaking countries and culture influenced by Iranians, is called Nowruz (literally meaning new day) which has been celebrated for almost 3,000 years. It marks the first day of spring or spring equinox. It usually falls on March 21 or 20 (This year on 20th) based on the solar calendar. However, instead of boring you with history lectures, let’s embark upon the journey of what is done in this celebration.

Around a month before the Nowruz, an amazingly fresh spirit is blown right into the lives of people. Streets are filled with people shopping for new clothes, flowers, and furniture although some go too far and wipe the stores out! Given the fact that family bonds are considered incredibly important, the New Year’s holidays is a great opportunity for us to renew the relationships and meet the loved ones whom we sometimes haven’t seen all year long, due to so-called active life- the air quotes cannot be visually mentioned here!

Besides all the shopping, Nowruz has been a tradition, sometimes too strong! to clean up houses and wash up everything we own because spring is thought to be the symbol of purity, freshness and health. In the last month of the year, everywhere you go, you could see someone washing the carpets or somebody waving at you from up there through a window, but don’t hold your breath because they’re merely cleaning the window.

There are many respected traditions for this occasion, some of which are still well preserved. All family members visit the elderlies especially grandparents on the very first moments of the new year’s day and they present the younger ones with gifts called “new year’s tip”. At the very moment of new year, we all gather around the table on which the symbols of the new year have been designed. This table is called “haft seen” which literally means seven symbols starting with the letter “s” but in Farsi. Every one of these objects represents some notions of prosperity and well-being.

Another unforgettable custom of new year’s holidays is to take trips around the country or abroad. The planning and the road are actually more fun than the destination. If the trip includes the whole relatives like cousins, uncles and aunts, it will definitely be second to none. The rate of traveling increases enormously during the holidays. On the roads you would see countless number of cars, bumper to bumper trying to get to their destinations making the road trip a separate kind of fun.

Let’s talk a little about the most heart-felt actions taken before and during the new year’s holidays. At this time of the year, usually people raise money in order to help the less privileged people in order to provide them the opportunity to experience the new year spirit as it should be. It is all about hope and joy. This is at the heart of Nowruz celebration which makes it not only a mere change in seasons but a refreshed wave of kindness and humanity.

The two week holidays happily end with a fun outing day. The thirteenth day of the holiday season is supposed for the people to spend their time in the nature. It is actually called nature’s day in Iran. All parks are full of families gathering, playing, talking, eating and celebrating the fabulous change in the nature. Although people are having fun outdoors they are generally cautious about protecting and respecting the natural landscapes.

Every year at this time, my heart fills with a pleasant feeling of joy, remembering all the new year celebrations I experienced beside my grandparents, parents, cousins and other relatives. My childhood memories which were full of colours, great tastes, amazing smells and happy voices come back to me, putting a smile on my  face and tear in my eyes. Since those days, I have lost some of my relatives, travelled abroad and things have changed. However, I have always kept celebrating Nowruz throughout the years with my family while keeping the good memories alive and trying to create lots of more for my daughter.

Happy New Persian Year to all of you! I wish you all a happy spring time and a year full of joy, prosperity and happiness.

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