What’s Nowruz?

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Nowruz is the Iranian New Year celebrated by Zoroastrians, Parsees, and others in countries such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Tajikistan. It begins on the vernal equinox and lasts several weeks, involving traditions and rituals such as house cleaning, germinating seeds, and collecting seven symbolic items. Haji Firuz troubadours sing and dance, and visits are made to elders. The celebration ends on Sizdah Bedar, a national holiday where people visit natural areas and dispose of sabze. Special foods are prepared, including Bâglâva and Sabzi Polo Mahi.

Nowruz, also spelled Noruz, is the Iranian New Year celebration, observed by Zoroastrians, Parsees, and others. The word Nowruz means “new day”. It is celebrated in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Tajikistan. The celebration is thousands of years old, having begun during the Achaemenid reign, 550-330 BC, but although it began as a Persian celebration, it has been adopted and embellished by Islam.

The celebration of Nowruz begins with the vernal equinox, so it is celebrated around the twenty-first day of March, the first day of spring. The celebration lasts for several weeks. It involves many traditions and rituals.

As in other religious traditions, house cleaning, called Khaneh Tekani, is a preparation activity that precedes the festival. Germinating seeds in water, sabze, is a symbolic act that shows how the context offers opportunities for growth. Hafsin has a tradition of collecting at least seven items from a special list, each starting with a letter if it has a symbolic meaning. The list includes the aforementioned sabze, as well as sombol – hyacinths, sib – the apple, serke – vinegar, various fish and other items.

Haji Firuz, troubadours, sing and dance as they parade through the streets to instrumental accompaniment. The sixth day of the new year is the birthday of Zarathustra, the Persian prophet and founder of Zoroastrianism.

Visits are another Nowruz custom, with younger members of the community appealing to their elders. These visits take place within the first 12 days of the new year. The 13th day, Sizdah Bedar, is both a national holiday and the end of the Nowruz celebration. It features a visit to a natural area, such as a park, to connect with nature and dispose of the sabze in a natural body of water. The young men tie knots in the grass that has grown from the shoots to make a wish to get married next year.

Part of celebrating Nowruz involves preparing special foods, and the cooking begins several weeks in advance. Bâglâva or baklava is one of the important recipe for Nowruz. Sabzi Polo Mahi, a dish combining smoked fish, rice and herbs, is served the day before Nowruz, and Resteh Polo, a dish with rice and noodles, is served on Nowruz.

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