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  • 3/26/2013

The Iranian New Year Festival (Norouz)

haft-seen

Norouz is one of the oldest Iranian traditions marking the onset of spring and the Iranian New Year.

It’s a celebration of the social, cultural, national and spiritual identity of Iranians.

At the philosophical level, the celebration is organized according to the dynamics of love between the Creator and his creation: the material world.

The annual return of the spirits of the departed to their homes is celebrated by their offspring according to primordial rites of which only a faint trace remains among the Persians and the Parsis of today. But that in no way diminishes the importance of the bond renewed at every Norouz.

In the mind of Iranians, the word Norouz invokes colorful images that are elegant, simple, refreshing and humane.

All Iranians, whatever their religious beliefs, language or origins, and wherever they live, are strongly attached to Norouz. The festival begins the solar year at the spring equinox, around March 21, lasting around two weeks. It is the longest of all Iranian feasts and its rites are the richest in symbolism.

Symbolic Items

With the passing of a year and the coming of another, Iranians prepare tables, called Sofreh Haft-Seen, with at least seven items starting with the Persian letter ‘S’.

The custom dates back to antiquity, but the practice is still very much alive.

The seven items usually used are vinegar (serkeh), apple (seeb), garlic (seer), silverberry (senjed), sumac (somaq), juice of germinating wheat or malt cooked with flour and brought to a consistency (Samanou) and a plate of specially raised green sprouts (Sabzeh).

Along with the seven items, Muslims place the Holy Qur’an on their New Year table to invoke God’s blessings.

Saal-Tahvil

Saal-Tahvil means the point at which the old year ends and the New Year begins.

During the Norouz celebration, Saal-Tahvil is a most crucial moment in an Iranian family, especially with regard to forgiving past failings, putting away petty frictions that would otherwise fester into conflicts and looking forward to more constructive relations.

And, of course, this is the moment when the egg rolls on the mirror and marks the turn of time.

Before that moment, all members of the family gather around the table in their new clothes. The elder member of the family may recite verses from the Holy Qur’an, the poems by classical poet Hafez or prayers for the health, happiness and wealth of the family and others.

The family then proceeds to eat sweets, fruits and nuts. They proceed, especially in the case of children, to make the rounds of the family elders at the earliest possible opportunity. Adults, too, have a set schedule of visits and of receiving visitors.

As a rule, the patriarch of the house stays home until all those younger than him come and pay their respects. Then he would return those visits.

Sweets, fruit, tea and nuts are often the most served items. Close relatives may serve lunch or dinner. This round of visitations last as long as 13 days.

Sizdah Bedar

The Norouz ceremonies end on 13th Farvardin, the first month of the New Year. The day is known as Sizdah Bedar (literally meaning “13th day outside”‌).

Ancient Iranians considered it to be an attempt to remain safe from the bad effects of the ‘inauspicious’ number 13.

At present, most people leave their homes and spend a day in the countryside to enjoy the beautiful weather that accompanies the change of seasons.

During this outing, the green sprouts are thrown into running water, in the belief that with it, all past sins, worries and problems will go out of people’s lives. The New Year then truly begins with a fresh slate on the 14th day of the month.

Some rural folk might plant the sprouts instead of throwing them into running water.

Cereal and grain sprouts are thrown into the river after being examined by the elders in an attempt to predict the weather during the coming year. Friends and relatives usually organize a picnic in the countryside, at which noodle soup or rice and chicken are eaten.

People then return home refreshed to start a happy New Year.

Source: iran-daily.com


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