|Illustration by Linda Sawaya in Aramco World|
The origin of Nowruz can be traced back thousands of years through a continually evolving series of traditions. Nowruz was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Persia (ancient Iran) approximately 3,500 years ago. Zoroastrianism is one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions,but Nowruz has been widely celebrated without religious connotations fro thousands of years. It is celebrated by people all over the world and is a national holiday in 13 countries. Iranians consider Nowruz to be their biggest celebration of the year. Its also significant to the Zoroastrian community as their spiritual New Year, although their traditions differ somewhat from the secular celebrations of Nowruz. Traditionally, the character Hajji Firuz, heralds the approach of Nowruz. He wears bright red clothes and his face is covered in sooth (blackened). He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz (uncle Nowruz).
|The character Hajji Firuz|
|Chaharshanbe Suri celebration in New York City, March 2016.|
Spring cleaning, buying new clothes, or buying new furniture are traditions associated with Nowruz. On the eve of the New Year,families wait together for Tahvil, the exact moment that the new year begins. At that moment they kiss each other and wish each other a healthy and happy new year: "No-Rooz Mobarak" (Happy New Year) or "Eyd-ed Shoma Mobarak" (Happy New Year to you) or "No-Rooz Pirooz" (Wishing you a prosperous New Year).
A key element of the Nowruz celebration is the 'Haft Seen' table. This traditional holiday table includes seven symbolic items, all starting with the Persian letter sin. Each representing spring and renewal. The 'Sofreh Haftseen' (tabletop) is set with a special table cloth, with the seven s-items, and other symbolic items (depending on local tradition).
|An example of a 'Haft Seen' table.|
- Senjed (dried oleaster fruit)- representing love.
- Serkeh (vinegar)- representing patience and age.
- Seeb (apples)- representing health and beauty.
- Sir (garlic)- representing medicine and healing.
- Samanu (wheat pudding)- representing fertility and a sweet life.
- Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass): representing the renewal of nature.
- Somagh (spice/sumac meaning red)- the color of sunrise and spice of life.
- Sonbol (hyacinth flower)- representing the new spring.
- Sekkeh (coin)- representing prosperity.
- Sabzeh Keshmesh (raisins)- sweetness of life.
- Mahi Ghermez (gold fish)- A live gold fish in a bowl representing 'Life.'
- Tokhm Morgh e Rangi (painted eggs)-representing fertility.
- Ayneh (mirror)- representing reflection on the past.
- Candles or lanterns- representing light and happiness.
- An orange in water- representing the 'Earth.'
- National colours-representing patriotism.
Zoroastrians believe there is one God called Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord) and He created the world. They believe that the elements are pure and that fire represents God's light or wisdom. Ahura Mazda revealed the 'Truth' through the Prophet Zoroaster. The Zoroastrian book of Holy Scriptures is called 'The Avesta.' Zoroastrians traditionally pray several times a day and worship communally in a 'Fire Temple.'
|Fig and Quince: Persian Cooking and Culture by Azita Houshiar|
|17th century, Shah Abbas II of Persia celebrating Nowruz.|
|Hajji Firuz singing and playing the tambourine. Tehran, March 2013.|