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  • 3/7/2012

NOWRUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD

part 5

noroz

In rural areas, many people still greet Nowruz by collecting rainwater for their Nowruz sofra, and by kindling bonfires on rooftops, in alleys or in courtyards. In towns this has become an elaborate ceremony on the evening of the last Wednesday of the year to kindle seven or nine fires and to jump over them while chanting a verse (see CHAHARSHANBA SURI).

 Until recently, a few days before Nowruz wooden arches were erected at street junctions, bazaars, and shops, and they were lavishly decorated with variegated carpets, tapestry, pictures, mirrors, flowers, and greeneries (Massé, I, pp. 145-46). At present, fruits, sweets, and colored eggs are placed in containers together with pitchers of rose water and pure water. People of every call and means stroll around or get busy buying large quantities of sweets, fruits, and dry nuts. The sweets, most importantly the sowhan, samanu/samani, and small cookies made with chickpea or rice flour, are prepared at home or bought from confectioneries. Most favored fruits used to be apples, sour orange, lemon, quince, grapes, and pomegranate, but now various oranges, pears, even bananas, etc., are in style. The nuts include pistachios, shelled almond and walnut, and roasted chickpeas, all mixed with melon seeds, dried apricots, raisins, and dried mulberries (see AJIL). The fruits, sweets, and nuts are placed in the sofra-ye haft sin, together with bowls of water (one containing a red fish) and milk, candles and colored eggs, a mirror, the sabze, a few garlic cloves, vegetables (tarragon, leek, spring onions, basil, etc.), some new coins, a copy of the Qoran (or other holy scriptures, depending on the faith of the household), some cheese, and a container of samanu/samani (see HAFT SIN). Greeting cards of all sorts and contents are sent to family and friends. Families in bereavement do not celebrate Nowruz. Many still believe that the departed souls of relatives will visit the house on the eve of Nowruz, and the houses are accordingly cleaned and a meal, or ranginak (a sort of pastry with pitted dates), or ahla (sweetmeat made with rice flour, sugar, and saffron) is prepared and distributed (either in the streets or cemeteries) as offerings in memory of the departed ancestors (Honari, pp. 58-63 with literature; cf. Faqiri, 1971), in the tradition of Fravardagan (see FRAWARDIGAN). Also, there is still a widespread belief that on the morning of Nowruz a child or a handsome adult must knock at the door and when asked “who is it?”‌ and “what have you brought?”‌ reply: “I am the fortune and I bring heath and prosperity”‌ (Inostrantsev, pp. 100-10, tr. Kazemzada, pp. 107-108; cf. Honari, pp. 53, 97, 141-42).

On the eve of Nowruz special kinds of bread are baked, and a meal (usually fish with rice pilaf mixed with herbs) is consumed. Lights from bonfires illuminate many a rural house and village, and candles burn on graves, often accompanied by dishes of sweets, again as offerings to the dead. Meanwhile festive bands go around singing, dancing, and playing music, usually receiving gifts from neighborhood families. The exact moment of the “turning of the year”‌ is announced in advance. In anticipation, families gather around the haft-sin table, many reciting prayers intended to impart good will to all. As soon as the year “turns,”‌ children and in-laws get up and kiss the hands of the father and mother (or other elders if present), and offer their greetings. They themselves are in return kissed on the cheek (males) or forehead (female), and given their gifts (usually new banknote, occasionally gold or silver coins), and then the junior members of the family go through the same procedure with their elder siblings or in-laws. Customary congratulatory exclamations are: “May your Nowruz be happy!”‌ (Nowruz-e [or ت؟eyd-e] shoma mobarak [or Khojasta/farKhonda] bashad), “May health, victory, and prosperity be with you this year and many (or a thousand) years to come!”‌ And to the elders: “May God save you for us!”‌ (KHoda saya-ye shoma-ra az sar-e ma kam nakonad, lit. ‘May God not diminish your shadow over our head!’). Replies are normally the same and for the last phrase run something like this: “May you be under the protection of God (often adding: and of Morteza ت؟Ali)!”‌ Then some sweets, nuts, and colored eggs are distributed among those present, and water is drunk for bringing health and happiness. The candles are not put out (certainly not by blowing on them) but left to be burned all the way. Immediately afterwards (or in the following morning if the year has turned during late night), kinfolks, household servants, friends, and acquaintances visit each other, go through the same ritual, are welcomed by the offer of rosewater, and partake of sweets and other delicacies. Those families who are in mourning usually visit the graves of the departed and pray, then return home. After that, the elders and notables of the society and the kindred visit them but without observing the customary ceremonies of Nowruz, merely wishing them heath and long life and pray that no loss may befall the family again.

Children specially love Nowruz. They do not need to work, go to school, or be restricted in play; they wear new clothes, receive gifts, and play various games, particularly the “egg-cracking”‌ and tipcat (similar to baseball and played with wooden sticks, see ALAK-DOLAK).

The following days are spent in visiting friends, going on picnics, and, increasingly, traveling to other cities and countries. Particularly favorite sites include Persepolis (I registered 1,330,749 visitors on 21 March 1976), Isfahan, Mashhad, and other historic monuments, as well as holy sanctuaries and shrines or the Caspian or Persian Gulf resorts for the more affluent. The thirteenth day is the “outing day,”‌ and every family gets out, throws the plate of sabza away (while making a wish that with it all mishaps may be averted), finds a spot in a park, garden, or along a stream, spreads a carpet on the ground, and enjoys the day by playing chess, backgammon, cards, alak-dolak, etc, singing, dancing, chatting merrily, and listening to music. Elaborate meals are cooked and large quantities of fruits, nuts, drinks, and sweets consumed. Having thus bidden Nowruz a worthy goodbye, they return joyfully to their living places in the evening.

Source: iranica


Other Links:

Persian Cuisine, a Brief History (part 2)  

Iranian Girl Names (part 2)   

Iranian Girl Names (part 3)   

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 2)  

Astrology & Astronomy in Iran and Ancient Mesopotamia (part 3)  

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