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Persian New Year Nowruz Celebrated

Source: IIP Digital (Managed by the U.S. Department of State)

At the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler galleries, traditional dancers performed for Norwuz.

Washington - Nowruz, the Persian new year, was celebrated on March 20. Although the holiday has its roots in ancient Iran, it’s celebrated across Central Asia, Afghanistan and other places around the world.

In President Obama’s Nowruz message, he addressed those celebrating the holiday worldwide. “In communities and homes from America to southwest Asia, families and friends are coming together to celebrate the hope that comes with renewal,” he said. “As people gather with their families, do good deeds, and welcome a new season, we are also reminded of the common humanity that we share. “

Originally a Zoroastrian holiday, Nowruz coincides with the spring equinox. It’s a joyful celebration led by the character of Hajji Firuz, who wears colorful red clothing, sings and plays the tambourine. The Haft-Sin is the traditional table setting of Nowruz and includes seven items symbolizing Zoroastrian divinities: a mirror, an apple, candles, rose water, wheat or barley sprouts, a goldfish and painted eggs.

For four years, the Freer and Sackler galleries of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the educational museums funded by the U.S. government, have hosted their own celebrations of Nowruz.

“Our Nowruz celebration has become one of the Freer and Sackler’s most popular events,” said Massumeh Farhad, the museums’ chief curator and curator of Islamic art. “This year the Galleries hosted 12,000 people on the day.”

The Haft-Sin table - this one at the Smithsonian's event - is a traditional feature of Norwuz.

This year, the event centered on newly installed galleries devoted to the arts of ancient Iran. It included traditional Persian food, vocalist Monika Jalili singing folk songs in Persian, Azeri and other Iranian languages and a group called the Nomad Dancers that performed and taught traditional Persian dance. The celebration also included Haft-Sin table displays, simulated fire jumping, paper-flower arranging, chess and backgammon and Persian storytelling.

“It was a delight to see whole families - from 9 month olds to 90 year olds - enjoying the spring rituals of Nowruz,” said Farhad. “It is truly a family event, not only for Iranians but for visitors of many backgrounds.“

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also took the opportunity to offer Nowruz greetings. “For over 3,000 years, Nowruz has been a time of hope for millions of people around the world,” she said. “The spirit of compassion, family, and renewal is deeply woven throughout all of the rich cultural traditions of Nowruz, and reminds us of our shared commitment to a better world.”


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