Source: Press TV
Monday, March 20th, marks the grand festival of Norooz (Nowruz). On this day, Iranians usher in the Persian New Year at the exact moment of the vernal equinox which marks the start of spring. Norooz, a festival of Persian origin, Norooz is also celebrated by hundreds of millions of people from other ethno-linguistic groups in a dozen countries.
Haft-Sin table with seven symbolic items representing:
health, prosperity, longevity, reproduction and happiness
(source: Islamic Republic News Agency)
Norooz is widely celebrated in Iran's neighboring countries Tajikistan,
Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey as
well as in countries as far away as Georgia, Albania, Kosovo, China and India.
Norooz festivities last for two weeks and are preceded by "Chaharshanbeh Suri" or the Festival of Fire during which people make bonfires and jump over them. The symbolic tradition is meant to trade one's ailments and problems with the flames' warmth, energy and power of life.
Iranian children partake in Norooz celebrations in the city of Urmia
(photo by ISNA)
The Persian New Year comes with its own special rituals. Families take advantage
of the two-week holidays to join together for house visits and outdoor fun
One of the special observances of the occasion is the table setting known as Haft Sin, which means the seven S's in Persian. The table features seven items all of which start with the letter S in Persian. Families gather around the table and pray while waiting for the exact moment of the spring equinox. These symbolic items represent health, prosperity, longevity, reproduction and happiness for the family members throughout the year.
One of the customs of Norooz is to exchange house visits during which guests are
served tea, pastries, nuts and fruits. People also exchange gifts and money to
congratulate each other on the advent of the New Year.
Literally translated into New Day, Norooz is the first day of the Iranian solar calendar.
The UN's General Assembly recognized the International Day of Norooz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Also in 2009, Norooz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Norooz festivities culminate in Sizdebedar, the last day of the holidays which falls on the 13th day of the New Year. This is a day that has to be spent outdoors. Families leave their houses for picnics, outdoor games and strolls in nature.
A major part of the Persian New Year rituals is setting a special table called Haftsin with seven specific items (all starting with the letter "S" in the Persian alphabet) present. In the ancient times, each of the items corresponded to one of the seven creations and the seven holly immortals protecting them. The Haftsin items are:
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