When the golden sun rays flow inside the living creatures’ veins to wake them up from a sweet long hibernation, Nowruz begins. The Persian New Year or Nowruz is a combination of two words, “Now” means new and “Ruz” which means day. On the spring equinox, when the length of day and night become exactly equal, those who live in Iran and Iranians from all around the world celebrate the Persian New Year .
The History of Nowruz?
Nowruz is a traditional Persian ritual celebrated by all Iranians with different religions and beliefs. This celebration goes back to ancient Persia, when it seems myth and reality were interwoven deeply.
Siavash is a brave, handsome prince from the Shahnameh (a masterpiece Persian epic written by famous poet Ferdowsi between 977 to 1010 CE) who is well known for his pure heart and impeccability. His stepmother, Soudabeh, was in love with him and asked Siavash to be with her, but Siavash could not stand this wicked offer and turned her down multiple times. The stepmother got furious and accused Siavash of committing adultery. The punishment of adultery was execution, and the king had to follow the rules even though he knew that his son was innocent. The maggies came up with a plan to ensure that he was indeed guilty. They made a big fire based on an old tradition and told Siavash to go through it. He could pass the fire without being burnt; otherwise, he would burn to death. People who knew Siavash was innocent mourned for his kind heart, but Siavash easily passed the test and came out alive, so his innocence became apparent for everyone. After this incident, Siavash did not want to stay there anymore, so he asked his father to send him to the war between Iran and Touran (a country near Iran in Shahnameh which is known as Afghanistan, today). However, with some political negotiation between the two countries, they made peace and Siavash went to Turan. He married the princess of Turan, Farangis, and became the governor of a large region there. Garsivaz, the king’s brother, became jealous of Siavash and accused him of being a traitor to the empire. Afrasiab, the king, got furious and attacked Siavash’s army. The king did not have mercy even for his pregnant daughter Farangis and ordered his men to beat her hard enough for her to lose the child. Eventually, Turan’s army interned Siavash and beheaded him. A plant grew from the spot where his blood had been spilled, called Par-Siavashan. No matter how much you cut this plant, it will regrow again, and that is why it became the symbol of resurrection to show that pureness never dies.
Based on this story, in Nowruz, ancient Persians used to mourn for Siavash’s death, and by seeing the growth of Par-Siavashan, which is only found in spring, they celebrate the new year.
Iranians also know Jamshid, a mythological Persian king as the founder of Nowruz. The story says that when Jamshid became the king of Persia, he rescued Iranians from Ahriman or evil, so he threw a feast called Nowruz to celebrate this victory.
What Are Nowruz Traditions?
Preparation for Nowruz and getting new for the new year is a long joyful journey. About a month before the new year, people start cleaning their houses, but it is not like what they regularly do. “Khaneh Tekani,” which literally translates to house shaking, is about washing everything, throwing away what you do not use, and redecorating the house. After Khaneh Tekani, your house must look spotless.
Another exciting part of Nowruz, especially for children, is shopping. During the month of Esfand or March, the streets and shopping centers are full of people trying on different clothes to buy or looking for high-quality snacks. Since the new year is the best time for family and friends to gather around each other, Iranians buy nuts, fruits, and sweets to serve their guests.
The combination of almond, pistachio, hazelnut, and seeds is called “Ajil” in Farsi and is a significant item in Nowruz.
Shopping for the Haft Seen Table is essential before Nowruz as well.
What is the Haft Seen Table?
Iranians put seven symbolic natural items on the table for Nowruz and call it Haftseen, which translates to Seven S. Each item has a meaning behind it and must start with the letter “S”.
1. Sabzeh: It is wheat or lentil sprout which must be grown in a dish and represents rebirth.
2. Seeb: Apple represents health and beauty.
3. Samanoo: It is a sweet, creamy pudding that symbolizes strength and blessing in life.
4. Senjed or Silver Berry is a sweet and dried fruit. It is a symbol of love.
5. Seer: It is garlic and represents medicine or health.
6. Somaq: It is a Persian spice that represents sunlight.
7. Serkeh: Vinegar symbolizes age and patience.
Besides these items, Iranians place painted eggs, a mirror, and a goldfish on the table, representing light and blessing. However, there is an argument about putting the fish on the table. Historians are not certain about the root of the goldfish on the Haft Seen table, and it is not environmentally friendly either.
Iranians with different religions also put their holy books and Divan-e Hafez (Hafez’s poetry book) on the table.
What is Chahar Shenbeh Souri?
The Chahar Shanbeh Souri Ritual happens on the last Tuesday night of the year to wish for a healthy and happy year. By lighting bonfires and jumping over them, Iranians ask the fire, which is a sacred element in Zoroastrianism, to protect them from illnesses and problems while singing, “Give your redness (health) to me, I’ll give my paleness (sickness) to you.”
Also, children cover their faces and knock on the doors while beating on pots with spoons to get some treats. This tradition is called Ghashogh Zani and is still famous among some Iranians.
Who is Haji Firooz?
Haji Firooz is the Nowruz’s spirit who wears a shiny red dress and has dark skin. Mehrdad Bahar, mythologist and Persian historian, believes that Haji Firooz is the symbol of Dumuzi, the god of plants. Dumuzi saved his wife, Ishtar or Anahita, the divinity of fertility and rebirth from the underground (dark world of the dead) after a long winter, and that is why his skin became dark. In order to tell everyone that he succeeded in bringing the life back to nature, he plays music, sings folkloric songs and dances among people. Today, people wear the same costume and color their faces to be the messenger of spring and bring joy to others by singing and playing music in the streets.
When is the Persian New Year 2020?
The Persian New Year or Nowruz will be on March 20th, at 05:00 Central European Time and 07:19 AM Tehran Time. March 20th will be the beginning of Farvardin, the first month of the Persian solar calendar. On this day, Iranian families usually gather in the house of the elders and start the new year with hugging and wishing each other a happy year. The elders give money or a small gift to the younger ones as a sign of blessing, which is called “Eydie” and make them super happy.
Then the party starts by eating the traditional New Year’s meal, “Sabzi Polo Mahi”, which is fried or barbecued fish with rice and herbs (dill) and visiting relatives in their house.
The 13th day of Farvardin and the last day of the holiday is called Sizdah Bedar, which is the time to leave the house with your family and friends and have a picnic in nature. In ancient Persia, People considered the number 13 as bad luck, so by being in nature, which is a pure element, created by Ahura Mazda or God, you can pass the day without facing any troubles.
Sizdah Bedar is the time to throw your Haft Seen Table’s green into the water, but before doing so, unmarried girls and boys should tie the green leaves into a knot and wish to find and marry their soulmate during the new year.
Why Should You Travel to Iran During Nowruz?
Besides the rich culture and enjoyable stories of Nowruz that can persuade you to visit Iran, you can see the perfect look of this country. All the cities in Iran become decorated for the new year. You can see beautiful decorations such as Haft Seen Table in shopping centers and the floral designs of the boulevards.
Although most of the cities such as Shiraz, Isfahan, and Yazd will be filled with visitors and travelers during Nowruz, Tehran finds time to rest after a crowded year. Tehran during Nowruz is totally different from what you see at other times of the year.
The capital of Iran, Tehran, can show you its real beauty and pleasant weather when most of its citizens traveled to other places. You can explore the city thoroughly by going to art galleries, museums, and majestic palaces.
Walking on Tabiat Bridge and visiting Nowruz Park in Abbas Abad would be an excellent experience to show you different rituals of the country. The lake inside the park is inspired by the Caspian Sea, and when you look at it from the bridge, you can see the small sparkling waves created by the breeze.
Some Tips and Suggestions for Traveling to Iran During Nowruz
- Since all the cities in Iran are welcoming many guests from all around the world and Iran itself, it may be hard to find suitable accommodation. You have to book your hotel for months before Nowruz to be sure about where you’d stay.
- The same rule applies for the flights to Iran. Because of the large number of travelers choosing Iran as their destinations for Nowruz, the tickets might be more expensive, and you should book yours from months before.
- If you are traveling to Iran for the first time, you should be aware of some points in order to have a wonderful trip. You can read about what you should not do as a first-time traveler in Iran, in our blog.