Sunday, August 19, 2018

Norooz

 

     The Persian New Year also known as Norooz starts from the first day of spring, which coincides with March 20th, 21st or 22nd depending on the year. The word Norooz is a compound word that blends together the Persian words “No” which means “new,” and “Rooz” which means “day”.

Norooz celebrates renewal and rebirth of the nature, symbolized by arrival of spring. It is partly rooted in the Zoroastrian tradition, but is an ancient holiday that has been celebrated for thousands of years and is also an important Iranian cultural holiday. Norooz is celebrated and observed principally in Iran and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, Caucasus, Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.  

 

 

Norooz Traditions

 

It all begins in early March with ‘spring cleaning’. This tradition known as ‘Khaneh Tekani,’ literary meaning ‘shaking the house,’ is common in almost every household. Carpets are washed, windows are wiped, silverware is polished, curtains are taken to the dry cleaners and old furniture is repaired or replaced with new ones.

Every nook and cranny is scrubbed and polished until the whole house is sparkling clean. All family members are involved in this ritual, a ritual that signifies a fresh start to the year. It is widely believed that with all the dust and grime, ill fortune is also washed away and the slate is wiped clean again.

And then it’s shopping time. During the weeks left to the New Year, people head for the markets and shopping centers to buy an assortment of goods. And what’s on the list? New clothes, new shoes, fresh fruits, sweets and confectionaries, nuts, flowers and everything that goes on the Haft Sin Table. 

 

 

On the last Tuesday before the New Year, Chahar Shanbe Suri is celebrated to cast away the misfortunes of the year passed. At sunset, participants jump over bonfires singing "Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man," which means, "[let] your ruddiness and red glow [be] mine, my paleness yours". This is symbolic of burning all that was bad, pain, unhappiness, sickness and worry and looking forward to a new beginning. Chaharshanbe Suri is the symbol of good health, cultivation, light, and purity to the Iranian and is considered as a warm welcome to Norooz.

 

 

A major part of celebrating the New Year is setting "Haft Sin". Haft Sin, denoting ‘seven items beginning with the letter sin (S)’, is one of the components of the rituals of the New Year’s Day festival. This is a dining cloth (sofra) that every household spreads out on the floor (or on a table) in a room normally for entertaining guests, and places upon it the following items. At the head is placed a mirror, flanked by two candelabra holding candles (traditionally according to the number of the children in the household). In front of these are placed a copy of the holy Quran (the Šāh-nāma or the Divān of Ḥāfeẓ have also been used), a jar of water usually containing a goldfish, vessels containing milk, rose water (golāb) and (one, three, five or seven) colored eggs. The center is normally occupied by a vase of flowers, customarily hyacinth (sonbol) and branches of musk willow (bid-e mešk). Next to it are placed seven items starting with the letter sin (described below), a plate containing fruit (traditionally apples, oranges, pomegranates and quinces), bread and fresh cheese, various sweets, and ājil (a mixture of dried roasted seeds of chick-peas, melons, wheat (gandom berešta), rice (berenjak) and nuts, all mixed with raisins).

 

 

The sin items are traditionally as follows: 1. sabza, that is, wheat (or barley, sometimes lentils also) grown to the height of a few inches inside a thin piece of white cloth wrapped around a clay jug; 2. sepand (esfand), seeds of wild rue (often placed in a small incense burner and burned just after the turn of the year); 3. sib, apples; 4. sekka, a few newly minted coins; 5. sir, garlic cloves; 6. serka, vinegar; 7. A bowl of samanu (a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat); 8. Senjed, Sea-buckthorn.

 

 

Actually every item in Haft seen is a symbol from Regeneracy, Fertility, Abundance, Wealth, etc. The common items and their symbolic definitions are as follow:

  1. Ayyeneh (Mirror): It is a common "non-Sin" item in Haft-Sins and it is a symbol of Light.
  2. Goldfish, it is the symbol for Pisces also known as Fishes, which was relevant in traditional Persian calendar. Iranians put goldfishes in Haft-Seen to indicate that the New Year starts from this month. Nowadays it is also a symbol for Victory, Exhilaration, Blessing, etc.
  3. Sib (Apple) is a symbol of "Health".
  4. Sabza (Grass) is a symbol of Greenery, Nature and Exhilaration.
  5. Senjed (Sea-buckthorn) is an inseparable item which symbolizes the wisdom and Regeneracy.
  6. Serka (Vinegar) is a symbol of Disinfection. Also some believes that it's a symbol for Surrendering and Satisfaction.
  7. Samanu is a symbol for Power and Bravery.
  8. Sir (Garlic) is a stimulation symbol. And also in Zoroastrian literature it is a symbol for Disinfection.

At the exact moment of the New Year, known as Tahvil, family members hug and kiss each other, wishing a happy new year. Cash, coins and gold are given as gifts – usually from the adults to the children.

 

 

Norouz holiday in Iran is a two-week event. It is mostly about socializing and strengthening family bonds and meeting up with old friends. During this period, people pay visits to each other’s houses and entertain their guests with fresh fruits and nuts. Norouz holiday is also a perfect opportunity for the families to go on trips making these two weeks a prime travel season.

 

 

On the 13th day, known as Sizdah Bedar, it’s typical for families to spend the day outside. Iranians are known to go to parks for a picnic, since it is believed that remaining outdoors will help one avoid misfortune. Another tradition involves throwing green sprouts into rivers and lakes to symbolize the rebirth of plants and the end of the New Year festivities.