Holidays and Festivities

Now Rouz - Persian New Year

Persian New Year or Now Rouz takes place at the exact moment of spring equinox. The term Now Rouz means 'new day' in Farsi and first appeared in Persian records in the second century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC). Kings from all over the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the king on Now Rouz, a scene that is captured on the stone walls of Persepolis. Now Rouz has been celebrated for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in Zoroastrian rituals and traditions. Iranians, Afghans, Kurds, Tajiks, Belouchis, Parsis and Azeris alike celebrate this pre-Islamic tradition.

Part of the ancient tradition, which takes place on the last Tuesday before the actual Now Rouz, is the celebration of Chahar Shanbeh Suri, the 'eve of red Wednesday.' On this night children of all ages jump over fire with the phrase "sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to," meaning 'your beautiful red color to me, my sickly yellowness to you.' By doing so the past is symbolically left behind in favor of celebrating re-birth and renewal. On Now Rouz every Iranian household will display a Haft Sin, a new year's display of 'seven s:'

  • Sabzeh, sprouting greens representing re-birth
  • Samanuh, a wheat pudding for affluence and sophistication in Persian cuisine
  • Seeb, an apple for health and beauty
  • Senjed, dried fruit of the lotus tree for love
  • Seer, garlic representing medicine
  • Serkeh, vinegar for age, patience and balance
  • Somac, berry powder for the color of the sun and universal goodness

Now Rouz preparations include vigorous house cleaning and shopping for new clothes to wear and a goldfish, flowers and sweets to add the Haft Sin. While the exact moment of equinox is usually celebrated within close family, the following days involve mutual visits between extended family and friends. Children may receive small gifts.The thirteenth day of the new year festival is marked by outdoor family picnics and called Sizdah Bedar. It is often accompanied by music and dancing. At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen (which has symbolically collected all sickness and bad luck) is thrown into running water, and some women tie the tops hoping to be married before the next year's Sizdah Bedar. Another tradition associated with this day is Dorugh-e Sizdah, literally meaning "the lie of the thirteenth", which means pulling someone's leg with a lie similar to April Fool's Day.

Mehregan or Mihrigan was once a celebration to honor the Zoroastrian Goddess Mithra, but is now mostly a harvest festival. It marks the beginning of winter. Mehregān was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival.

Shabe Yaldā or Shabe Chelle
is an Iranian festival celebrated during winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Like many similar celebrations in other culture around this time, it symbolizes the victory of light over darkenss. On this night Iranians share dried fruit and nuts, water melon and pomegranate. They also tell stories and read poetry. The festival was probably adopted from Babylonians and incorporated into Zoroastrian rituals. It may well be the reason for Christmas being celebrated around the same time.

Sadeh is celebrated 50 days before Now Rouz. Sadeh in means "hundred" and refers to one hundred days and nights left to the beginning of the new year celebrated at the first day of spring on March 21st each year. Sadeh is a mid winter festival that was celebrated with grandeur and magnificence in ancient Iran. It was a festivity to honor fire and to defeat the forces of darkness, frost, and cold.

Submitted by Admin on Mon, 02/25/2008 - 10:43am.