Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, falls on the spring equinox marking the first day of spring. It has many special customs associated with it, and is one of the most important and oldest Iranian holidays celebrated by all religious and ethnic groups in Iran.
The Origins of the Persian New Year
The Nowruz celebration (also spelled Norooz or Norouz), the oldest of Iranian traditional festivals, is made up of two Persian words, “now” which has the same etymology and meaning as the English word “new”, and “ruz” which means “day” . The literal translation, “new day,” is more accurately translated into Persian (Farsi) as “new year.” The Persian New Year begins on the first day of spring (usually the 21st of March). and the 1st day of Farvardin (the first month of the Islamic solar calendar). The origin of Nowruz comes from Iran’s Zoroastrian past, and it is celebrated by all Iranians across a multitude of religious or ethnic minority affiliations. It is also celebrated in many other countries including Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Albania to name a few.
Celebrating the Nowruz Celebration prior to the Persian New Year
A few days prior to the Persian New Year, a special cloth is spread on the carpet or a table in the main room of every Persian household. This ceremonial place, called the Sofreh, is where seven special items beginning with the Persian letter “sinn” or “s” are placed. The number seven is sacred in Iran since ancient times, and each item on the Sofreh is a symbol of spring, rebirth and renewal.
The Seven Symbols of Nowruz
- Sabzeh: A sprout (usually wheat or lentil) or grass that grows in the weeks leading up to the New Year; symbolizes rebirth and renewal
- Senjed: Dried fruit, ideally a sweet fruit from a lotus tree; symbolizes love
- Sib: Apple; symbolizes beauty and health
- Seer: Garlic; symbolizes medicine and good health
- Samanu: A sweet pudding; symbolizes wealth and fertility
- Serkeh: Vinegar; symbolizes patience and wisdom that comes with aging
- Sumac: A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries; symbolizes the sunrise
In many households, a mirror is placed on the Sofreh face up and a live goldfish swimming in a bowl of clear water is placed next to the lentil or wheat sprouts growing since early March. This is also to symbolize life.
Unique Persian New Year’s (Nowruz) Traditions
The New Year’s ceremonies begin on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, referred to as “charshanbe souri” or “Red Wednesday,” when big bonfires are lit that each member of the family must jump over. The charshanbe souri fire is thought to originate from ancient times when signals may have been sent to the ancestors to help guide them back home – traditionally fires were lit on rooftops.
The jumping over the fire is then followed by a big gathering which lasts late into the night. Once the fire goes out, the ashes are collected and disposed of to do away with last year’s bad luck. When the person in charge of burying the ashes returns, they must knock on the door and carry through the following ritual in order to ward off the evil eye and enter the house again:
Those inside ask“Who is it?”, “Where are you coming from?” and “What are you bringing with you?”
The person wishing to enter replies “It is I”, “From a wedding”, and “Happiness and mirth.”
How To Say Happy New Year in Persian
So you know the Persian translation for Nowruz, but you may be wondering how to wish someone a Happy New Year in Persian as well. Happy New Year is translated as Aidet Mobarak. Note that there are many different spellings for this greeting, and this is one of the many ways it appears (similar to the many different spellings of Nowruz).
Language Connections would like to wish Aidet Mobarak (Happy New Year or Nowruz) to those who celebrate, and a Happy Spring to all!
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