Nowruz, Persian New Year

The Spirit of Nowruz: How an Age-Old Celebration Thrives Today

Nowruz, also known as Persian New Year, is the traditional festival marking the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar. Celebrated on the vernal equinox, usually around March 20th or 21st, this ancient festival has roots dating back over 3,000 years, originating in the Zoroastrian religion. It symbolizes the rebirth of nature, the triumph of good over evil, and joy and celebration. Nowruz spreads across various countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and parts of India and Pakistan, reflecting a shared cultural heritage. The festivities involve various traditions such as cleaning homes (known as khaneh tekani or “shaking the house”), setting the Haft-Seen table with seven items starting with the letter ‘S’ in Persian, and visiting family and friends. It’s a time for renewal, reconciliation, and communal spirit, embodying values of peace and solidarity.

Key Traditions of Nowruz

House Cleaning and Shopping

Before Nowruz, people undertake a major spring cleaning of their homes, known as خانه تکانی (khane tekani) in Persian, and purchase new clothes and flowers, especially hyacinths and tulips, to welcome the New Year.

Visiting Family and Friends

It’s customary during Nowruz to visit the homes of family, friends, and neighbors. These visits, often starting with younger people visiting their elders, include the exchange of pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits, and nuts.

Food Preparation

A variety of special foods are prepared for Nowruz, including Samanu, a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, and Sabzi Polo with fish. Each region has its own specific dishes and sweets to celebrate Nowruz.

Haft-Seen

Families gather around the Haft-Seen table, which includes seven items starting with ‘S’ in Persian, symbolizing rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty. Common items include sprouts, sweet pudding, vinegar, apples, garlic, and sumac.

Haft Mewa

In Afghanistan, Haft Mewa, a mix of seven different dried fruits and nuts served in syrup, is prepared for Nowruz, symbolizing the sweetness and variety of life.

Khoncha

In Azerbaijan, Khoncha displays include a tray of sprouting wheat and dyed eggs for each family member, symbolizing fertility and prosperity for the New Year.

Amu Nowruz and Hajji Firuz

Amu Nowruz and Hajji Firuz are traditional characters in Iran, heralding the arrival of Nowruz with gifts and celebrations. Amu Nowruz is depicted as an elderly man bringing gifts, while Hajji Firuz, with his face covered in soot, dances through the streets to spread joy.

Kampirak

In Afghanistan, the figure of Kampirak, resembling a beneficent old man, visits villages to distribute charity, symbolizing the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Nauryz Kozhe

In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the New Year starts with the preparation of Nauryz Kozhe, a traditional drink, symbolizing unity and the renewal of nature.

Best Cakes, Cookies, and Sweets for Nowruz

Nan-e Nokhodchi

A traditional Persian cookie made from chickpea flour, powdered sugar, cardamom, and pistachio slivers, often served during Nowruz.

Best Food for Nowruz

Samanu

A sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence and fertility, traditionally prepared for Nowruz.

Sabzi Polo with Fish

A dish made from rice, fresh herbs, and fish, symbolizing rebirth and prosperity, commonly eaten on the night of Nowruz.

Featured image: Wikipedia

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