Nowruz (Persian: نوروز, IPA: [nouˈɾuːz], meaning ” The New Day”) is the name of the Iranian New Year in the Solar Hijri calendar. Nowruz is also referred to as the Persian New Year.
Nowruz marks the first day of spring or Equinox as and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and families gather together to observe the rituals.
Nowruz is celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths. It originated in Persia in one of the capitals of the Achaemenid empire in Persis (Fars) in Iran and is also celebrated by the cultural region that came under Iranian influence or had migrations by Persians including Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other scattered populations in Central Asia. The distinct culture based on the language, food, music and leisure activities that developed among the many people and ethnic groups who lived in this area are known as Persians.
Nowruz is partly rooted in the religious tradition of Zoroastrianism. Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion that emphasizes broad concepts such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Persia (centered in what is now Iran). Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin.Since the Achaemenid era the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox. Nowruz is also a holy day for Sufi Muslims, Bektashis, Ismailis, Alawites,Alevis, Babis and adherents of the Bahá’í Faith.
The term Nowruz in writing first appeared in historical Persian records in the 2nd century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 550–330 BCE), where kings from different nations under the Persian Empire used to bring gifts to the Emperor, also called King of Kings (Shahanshah), of Persia on Nowruz. The significance of Nowruz in the Achaemenid Empire was such that the great Persian king Cambyses II’s appointment as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the New Year festival (Nowruz).
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The first day on the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 20 March. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator; sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.
In c. the 11th century CE major reforms of Iranian calendars took place and whose principal purpose was to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowrūz, at the vernal equinox. Accordingly, the definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Ṭūsī was the following: “the first day of the official new year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon
The celebration has its roots in Ancient Iran. Due to its antiquity, there exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology. In the Zoroastrian tradition, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the Gahambars and Nowruz, which occurs at the spring equinox.
“ It seems a reasonable surmise that Nowruz, the holiest of them all, with deep doctrinal significance, was founded by Zoroaster himself. ”
Between sunset of the day of the 6th Gahanbar and sunrise of Nowruz was celebrated Hamaspathmaedaya (later known, in its extended form, as Frawardinegan). This and the Gahanbar are the only festivals named in the surviving text of the Avesta.
The Shahnameh, dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature. The mythical Persian King Jamshid (Yima or Yama of the Indo-Iranian lore) perhaps symbolizes the transition of the Indo-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry and a more settled life in human history. In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, he is credited with the foundation of Nowruz. In the Shahnama, Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world’s creatures gathered in wonder about him and scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day or No/Now-Ruz. This was the first day of the month of Farvardin (the first month of the Persian calendar).
The Persian scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni of the 10th century AD, in his Persian work “Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sina’at al-Tanjim” provides a description of the calendar of various nations. Besides the Persian calendar, various festivals of Arabs, Jews, Sabians, Greeks and other nations are mentioned in this book. In the section on the Persian calendar , he mentions Nowruz, Sadeh, Tiregan, Mehregan, the six Gahanbar, Parvardegaan, Bahmanja, Isfandarmazh and several other festivals. According to him: It is the belief of the Persians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion. The Persian historian Abu Saʿīd Gardēzī in his work titled Zayn al-Akhbār under the section of the Zoroastrians festivals mentions Nowruz (among other festivals) and specifically points out that Zoroaster highly emphasized the celebration of Nowruz and Mehregan.
Persepolis all nations stair case. Notice the people from across the Achaemenid Persian Empire bringing gifts. Some scholars have associated the occasion to be either Mehregan or Nowruz.
Although it is not clear whether proto-Indo-Iranians celebrated a feast as the first day of the calendar, there are indications that both Iranians and Indians may have observed the beginning of both autumn and spring, related to the harvest and the sowing of seeds, respectively, for the celebration of new year.
Boyce and Grenet explain the traditions for seasonal festivals and comment: “It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Persians to develop their own spring festival into an established new year feast, with the name Navasarda ‘New Year’ (a name which, though first attested through Middle Persian derivatives, is attributed to the Achaemenian period). Since the communal observations of the ancient Iranians appear in general to have been a seasonal ones, and related to agriculture, it is probable, that they traditionally held festivals in both autumn and spring, to mark the major turning points of the natural year”.
We have reasons to believe that the celebration is much older than that date and was surely celebrated by the people and royalty during the Achaemenid times (555–330 BC). It was, therefore, a highly auspicious occasion for the ancient Iranian peoples. It has been suggested that the famous Persepolis complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and the Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Nowruz. Although, there may be no mention of Nowruz in recorded Achaemenid inscriptions There is a detailed account by Xenophon of Nowruz celebration taking place in Persepolis and the continuity of this festival in the Achaemenid tradition.
in 539 BC the Jews came under Persian rule thus exposing both groups to each others customs. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther is adapted from a Persian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens suggesting that Purim may be a transformation of the Persian New Year. A specific novella is not identified and Encyclopædia Britannica itself notes that “no Jewish texts of this genre from the Persian period are extant, so these new elements can be recognized only inferentially”. The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics notes that the Purim holiday is based on a lunar calendar while Nowruz occurs at the spring equinox (solar calendar). The two holidays are therefore celebrated on different dates but within a few weeks of each other, depending on the year. Both holidays are joyous celebrations. Given their temporal associations, it is possible that the Jews and Persians of the time may have shared or adopted similar customs for these holidays. The story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther has been dated anywhere from 625–465 BC (although the story takes place with the Jews under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire and the Jews had come under Persian rule in 539 BC), while Nowruz is thought to have first been celebrated between 555–330 BC. It remains unclear which holiday was established first.
Nowruz was the holiday of Arsacid/Parthian dynastic Empires who ruled Iran (248 BC-224 AD). There are specific references to the celebration of Nowruz during the reign of Vologases I (51–78 AD), but these include no details. Before Sassanids established their power in West Asia around 300 AD, Parthians celebrated Nowruz in Autumn and 1st of Farvardin began at the Autumn Equinox. During Parthian dynasty the Spring Festival was Mehragan, a Zoroastrian and Iranian festival celebrated in honor of Mithra.
Extensive records on the celebration of Nowruz appear following the accession of Ardashir I of Persia, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty (224–651 AD). Under the Sassanid Emperors, Nowruz was celebrated as the most important day of the year. Most royal traditions of Nowruz such as royal audiences with the public, cash gifts, and the pardoning of prisoners, were established during the Sassanian era and persisted unchanged until modern times.
Nowruz, along with Sadeh (celebrated in mid-winter), survived in society following the introduction of Islam in 650 AD. Other celebrations such Gahanbar and Mehragan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians, who carried them. It was adopted as the main royal holiday during the Abbasid period.
In the book Nowruznama (“Book of the New Year”, which is attributed to Omar Khayyam, a well known Persian poet and Mathematician, a vivid description of the celebration in the courts of the Kings of Persia is provided:
“ From the era of Kai Khusraw till the days of Yazdegard, last of the pre-Islamic kings of Persia, the royal custom was thus: on the first day of the New Year, Now Ruz, the King’s first visitor was the High Mobad of the Zoroastrians, who brought with him as gifts a golden goblet full of wine, a ring, some gold coins, a fistful of green sprigs of wheat, a sword, and a bow. In the language of Persia he would then glorify God and praise the monarch. This was the address of the High Mobad to the king : “O Majesty, on this feast of the Equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the Faith of the Ancient ones; may Surush, the Angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestures and the exercise of justice and righteousness. May thy soul flourish; may thy youth be as the new-grown grain; may thy horse be puissant, victorious; thy sword bright and deadly against foes; thy hawk swift against its prey; thy every act straight as the arrow’s shaft. Go forth from thy rich throne, conquer new lands. Honor the craftsman and the sage in equal degree; disdain the acquisition of wealth. May thy house prosper and thy life be long!” ”
Following the demise of the Caliphate and the subsequent re-emergence of Persian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Nowruz was elevated to an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sassanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. According to the Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi, the Iranian Buyid ruler ʿAżod-od-Dawla (r. 949-83) customarily welcomed Nowruz in a majestic hall, wherein servants had placed gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers. The King would sit on the royal throne (masnad), and the court astronomer came forward, kissed the ground, and congratulated him on the arrival of the New Year. The king would then summon musicians and singers, and invited his boon companions. They would gather in their assigned places and enjoy a great festive occasion.
Even the Turkic and Mongol invaders did not attempt to abolish Nowruz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Nowruz remained as the main celebration in the Persian lands by both the officials and the people.
The festival of Nowruz is celebrated by many groups of people in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, but particularly by Persians and various other Iranian peoples. It is called Naw-wradz or Nuway-kāl by the Pashtuns, Navroz by Zoroastrians of the subcontinent, Nevruz in Turkic, Uyghurs who live in Northwestern China call it “Noruz”, and it is called Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In Kurdish communities located in parts of western Iran, the holiday is referred to as Newroz, which is a variety of the Persian word Nowruz. The variety Nawroz is also an Eastern Persian word and is also used in the Persian speaking regions of Central Asia.In Pashto language it is pronounced as نوورځ – “Naw-Wraz” (New Day
Nowruz around the world
Traditional costume for Nowruz in Kazakhstan
Nowruz is celebrated in Greater Iran, Caucasus, Central Asia and by Iranians worldwide. It is a public holiday in Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and India. Also the Canadian parliament by unanimous consent, has passed a bill to add Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada, on March 30, 2009.
In Albania Sultan Nevruz is celebrated as a mainly mystical day by the Bektashi sect, and there are special ceremonies in the Tekke led by the clergy and large meals are served there. They celebrate this day as the birthday of Ali. Also all Albanians celebrate a secular version of Nowruz, called Spring Day. Nowruz is also celebrated by Kurdish people in Iraq and Turkey as well as by Baltistan in the Pakistan and Parsis in the Indian subcontinent.
Other notable celebrations take place by Iranians around the world, such as Los Angeles, Toronto, Cologne and in United Kingdom, mainly in London. But because Los Angeles is prone to devastating fires, there are very strict fire codes in the city. No fires are allowed even on one’s own property. Usually, Iranians living in Southern California go to the beaches to celebrate the event where it is permissible to build fires. On 15 March 2010, The United States House of Representatives passed The Nowruz Resolution (H.Res. 267), by a 384–2 vas cote, “Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz, … .”.
It is also a holy day for Alawites, Alevis, and adherents of the Bahá’í Faith. Countries that have Nowruz as a public holiday include the following:
Nowruz in the Zoroastrian faith
Zoroastrians worldwide celebrate Nowruz as the first day of the New Year. Parsi Zoroastrians of South Asian origin celebrate it as “Nowroj”, “Navroz”, or “Navroj” on the fixed day of March 21, while Zoroastrians of Iranian background generally celebrate, like other Iranians, on the actual Spring Equinox date. Because different Zoroastrian communities in India/Pakistan and Iran have evolved slightly different calendar systems, there is some variance. Adherents of the Fasli variant of the Zoroastrian calendar celebrate Nowruz in March, but today, most other Zoroastrians also celebrate on this day.
Other variants of the Zoroastrian calendar celebrate the Nowruz twice: once as Jamshedi Nowruz on March 21 as the start of spring, and a second Nowruz, in July/August , as either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. That the second Nowruz is celebrated after the last day of the year, known as Pateti, which comes after a Muktad period of days remembering the dead. Many Parsis are confused by this, and mistakenly celebrate Pateti as if it were Nowruz, when in fact Nowruz is the day after. Some attribute this confusion by some as celebrating the last day of the year (contrary to what might be expected from a term that means “new day”), may be due to the fact that in ancient Persia the day began at sunset, while in later Persian belief the day began at sunrise.
Zoroastrians of Iranian origin generally put up a Haft Sheen table while Muslim Iranians put up Haft Sin table. The difference is because Muslims can not put wine (Sharab) on the table. Zoroastrians of Parsi (South Asian) origin do not traditionally use a Haft Sin. They set up a standard “sesh” tray – generally a silver tray, with a container of rose water, a container with betel nut, raw rice, raw sugar, flowers, a picture of Zarathustra the prophet, and either a floating wick in a glass filled with water topped with oil for fuel, or an “afargania”, a silver urn with a small fire nourished by sandalwood and other fragrant resins.
Nowruz celebration in Iran
Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran. Preparations for Nowruz begin in the month Esfand (or Espand), the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar.
Hajji Firuz is the traditional herald of Nowruz. He oversees celebrations for the new year perhaps as a remnant of the ancient Zoroastrian fire-keeper.
His face is painted black (black is an ancient Persian symbol of good luck) and wears a red costume. Then he sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and heralds the coming of the New Year.
Spring cleaning and visiting one another
Spring cleaning, or Khouneh Tekouni (literally means ‘shaking the house’) or ‘complete cleaning of the house’ is commonly performed before Nowruz. Persians and other Indo-Iranian groups (Kurds, Azarbaijanis and Balochs) start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the new year and the purchase of flowers (in particular the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous).
In association with the “rebirth of nature”, extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed by almost every household in Iran. This is also extended to personal attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. On the New Year’s Day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors, as part of the Sizdah Be-dar ceremony.
During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to visit one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits, which are usually reciprocated. Typically, on the first day of Nowruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the youth will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. When in previous year, a family member is deceased, the tradition is to visit that family first (among the elders). The visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on their list. A typical visit is around 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time. Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and special nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items with tea or sherbet. Many Iranians will throw large Nowruz parties in a central location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.
Some Nowruz celebrants believe that whatever a person does on Nowruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Nowruz, then the new year will be a good one. On the other hand, if there are fights and disagreements, the year will be a bad one. As an extended tradition to the holiday, men may or may not choose to shave their faces until the night of the “New Day” as a sign of removal of old habits and tendencies and the rebirth of their faith and being.
One tradition that may not be very widespread (that is, it may belong to only a few families) is to place something sweet, such as honey or candy, in a safe place outside overnight. On the first morning of the new year, the first person up brings the sweet stuff into the house as another means of attaining a good new year.
The night before the last Wednesday of the year is celebrated by Iranians as Chahārshanbe Suri (Persian: چهارشنبه سوری), Sur meansing feast, party or festival in Persian, Kurdish: Çarşema Sor چوارشهمه سوورێ, Azerbaijani: Od çərşənbəsi (meaning Fire Wednesday) in Persian, the Iranian festival of fire. This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad); the symbolism behind the rituals are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism.
The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardi-ye man az (ane) to, sorkhi-ye to az (ane) man (“az-ane to” means belongs to you); This literally translates to “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me.” The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or their spirit, in preparation for new year.
Serving different kinds of pastry and nuts known as Ajil-e Moshkel-Goshā (lit. problem-solving nuts) is the Chahārshanbe Suri way of giving thanks for the previous year’s health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil for the warmth and vibrancy of the fire.
According to tradition, the living are visited by the spirit of their ancestors on the last days of the year, and many children wrap themselves in shrouds, symbolically re-enacting the visits. They also run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons and knocking on doors to ask for treats. The ritual is called qashogh-zany (spoon beating) and symbolizes the beating out of the last unlucky Wednesday of the year.
There are several other traditions on this night, including: the rituals of Kūze Shekastan, the breaking of earthen jars which symbolically hold one’s bad fortune; the ritual of Fal-Gûsh (lit.Divination by ear), or inferring one’s future from the conversations of those passing by; and the ritual of Gereh-goshā’ī, making a knot in the corner of a handkerchief or garment and asking the first passerby to unravel it in order to remove ones misfortune.
Haft Sîn (Persian: هفت سین) or the seven ‘S’s is a major traditional table setting of Nowruz, the traditional Iranian spring celebration. The haft sin table includes seven items starting with the letter ‘S’ or Sīn (س) in the Persian alphabet.
The custom and the traditional practice of Haft Sin has been changed over the past millennium. The term was initially referred to as Haft Chin. The word Haft Chin is derived from the word Chin (چین) meaning “to place” and Haft (هفت), the number 7. The items originally represented seven of the Zoroastrian yazatas or divinities including ātar and asmān. The invasion of Sassanid Persia by the Umayyad Caliphate in 650 brought acculturation and cultural transformation to the local Persians. This subsequently forced the local population to adapt and replace many Zoroastrian customs and words with Arabic and Islamic concepts. The Arabic language was heavily enforced upon the conquered from the local Berbers in North Africa and the Copts in Egypt to the Aramaic Christians in Syria and Iraq, and later the Persians and other Iranian speaking populations throughout Iran and the surrounding areas. The Arab conquests dramatically changed the Middle East and North Africa in respect to language, culture, and religion. The digraph Ch (چ) is not present in the Arabic language leading to its replacement by the letter S (س) in the word Sin. The Arabic assimilation of the Persians and other Iranian groups continued under the Abbasid Empire until the revival of the Persian language and culture by the Samanid Empire in 819 although the term and custom of Haft Chin had evolved into Haft Sin after nearly two centuries of Arab rule.
The “Haft Chin” items are:
Mirror – symbolizing Sky
Apple – symbolizing Earth
Candles – symbolizing Fire
Golab – rose water symbolizing Water
Sabzeh – wheat, or barley sprouts symbolizing Plants
Goldfish – symbolizing Animals
Painted Eggs – symbolizing Humans and Fertility
The Haft Sīn items are:
sabzeh – wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
samanu – a sweet pudding made from germinated wheat – symbolizing affluence
senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
sīr – garlic – symbolizing medicine
sīb – apples – symbolizing beauty and health
somaq – sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
serkeh – vinegar – symbolizing age and patience.
Other items on the table may include:
Sonbol – Hyacinth (plant)
Sekkeh – Coins – representative of wealth
traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
Aajeel – dried nuts, berries and raisins
lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving). As an essential object of the Nowruz table, this goldfish is also “very ancient and meaningful” and with Zoroastrian connection.
rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
the national colours, for a patriotic touch
a holy book (Qur’an , the Avesta,or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz)
The thirteenth day of the new year festival is Sizdah Bedar (literally meaning “passing the thirteenth day”, figuratively meaning “Passing the bad luck of the thirteenth day”). This is a day of festivity in the open, often accompanied by music and dancing, usually at family picnics.
Sizdah bedar celebrations stem from the ancient Persians’ belief that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years at the end of which the sky and earth collapsed in chaos. Hence Nowruz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.
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 to exorcise the demons (divs) from the household. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh before discarding it, so expressing a wish 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 is the process of lying to someone and making them believe it (similar to April Fools Day).
Nowruz in the Subcontinent
Nowruz as celebrated by Parsis
In the Fasli/Bastani variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, Navroz is always the day of the vernal equinox (nominally falling on March 21). In the Shahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year’s Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. These latter two variants of the calendar, which are only followed by the Zoroastrians of Pakistan and India, celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year’s Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti “(day) of penitence” (from patet “confession,” hence also repentance and penitence). The Parsi New Year is celebrated as Jamshed Navroz across the world by the entire Parsi community. The festival falls on the first day of the first month of the Fasli calendar, followed by the Parsis. This falls in the month of March according to the Gregorian calendar. As the day commences with the advent of spring or Vernal Equinox, Jamshed Navroz is celebrated with immense fun and fervor. All the Zoroastrians observe this festival by performing all the rituals and rites with full devotion and duty. A particular sect of Parsis resides in the western part of India and hence, Jamshed Navroz celebrations can be prominently noticed in these regions. Go through the following lines to know more about celebrating Jamshed Navroz in India.
Commemorated in a grand and elaborate fashion, preparations for Jamshed Navroz begin well in advance. Houses are cleaned to remove all the cobwebs and painted new. They are then adorned with different auspicious symbols, namely, stars, butterflies, birds and fish. New attires are ordered and made especially for the festival. On the day of Jamshed Navroz, people dress in their new and best clothes and put on gold and silver kustis and caps. The doors and windows are beautified with garlands of roses and jasmines. Color powders are used for creating beautiful and attractive patterns, known as rangoli, on the steps and thresholds. These intricate and creative patterns display the sanctity of the festivals. Moreover, fish and floral motifs are a favorite among rangolis and considered highly auspicious.
Guests are welcomed by sprinkling rose water and rice, followed by applying a tilak. Breakfast usually consists of Sev (a vermicelli preparation roasted in ghee and choc-a-bloc with dry fruits) which is served with yogurt and enjoyed by young and old alike. After breakfast, it is time to visit the Agiary or Fire Temple to offer prayers. Special thanksgiving prayers, known as Jashan, are held and sandalwood is offered to the Holy Fire. At the end of this religious ceremony, all Parsis take the privilege to exchange new greetings with one another by saying ‘Sal Mubarak’. Back home, special delicacies are made marking the lunch as an elaborate and delicious affair.
Various Parsi dishes, such as Sali boti (a mutton and potato preparation), chicken farchas, patrani machchi (fish steamed in a leaf), mutton pulao and dal, kid gosh and sasni machchi (a thick white gravy with pomfret) jostle for space on the table. However, the most significant dish that forms an integral part of Jamshed Navroz celebrations is pulav (rice enriched with nuts and saffron). Besides, plain rice and moong dal are a must on this day. Desserts too are not behind in terms of variety, the most important being falooda. It is a sweet milk drink made from vermicelli and flavored with rose essence. Lagan-nu-custard, or caramel custard, is another favorite on this occasion. The entire day is spent by visiting friends and relative and exchanging good wishes and blessings.
The people begin with cleaning their homes as a general custom of Nowruz, known as ‘spring clean’. This is observed days before the festival. The Parsis clean every part of their house, dust furniture and wash carpets. This is practiced to welcome the new spring season with freshness. The Parsis also believe that the soul of the departed family members would visit the homes of their loved ones on Nowruz Eve.
The number seven has been regarded magical and significant for the Zoroastrians. The number seven symbolizes the seven elements of life, namely, fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and humans. The traditional table setting of Jamshed Navroz includes seven specific items beginning with the letter ‘S’, known as Haft Sin, that signify life, health, wealth, abundance, love, patience and purity. These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and Sun and Moon.
The Haft Sin items are sabzeh (wheat or lentil sprouts representing rebirth), samanu (creamy pudding made from germinated wheat regarded as holy and symbolizes affluence), seeb (apple symbolizing health and beauty), senjid (dried fruit of lotus tree stands for love), sir (garlic regarded as medicinal and represents health), somagh (sumac berries signifying the color of the sun and the victory of good over evil) and serkeh (vinegar representing old age and patience). Apart from these foods, there are other items that are placed on the traditional table.
These items include sonbol (hyacinth plant,a symbol of ‘fertility’ or continuous chain of human progeny), sekkeh (coins representing wealth), aajeel (dried nuts, berries and raisins), lit candles (enlightenment and happiness), a mirror (cleanness and honesty), decorated eggs (fertility), traditional Iranian pastries like baghlava, toot and naan-nokhodchi, a bowl of water with goldfish (very essential for the Nowruz table), rosewater (magical cleansing powers), national colors (for a patriotic touch) and a holy book (the Avesta, Qur’an, Bible, Torah or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafiz). At the strike of the clock indicating New Year, the Parsis wear their clean and new dresses and gather around the Nowruz table and Haft Sin. Prayers are offered for health, happiness and prosperity. Next, the family members hug and kiss each other as part of the New Year greetings. The delicacies prepared for the occasion are served and consumed. The oldest member of the family then takes the lead and presents the Eidi (New Year’s gift) to the younger members present.
Navroz celebration by Kashmiris
The Kashmiris celebrate Navroz (or Navreh in Kashmiri) on a date around the vernal equinox. The date, which usually falls between mid-March and mid-April, is determined by the lunar calendar every year. The day of the vernal equinox (coinciding with the Iranian Nowruz) is also celebrated by the Kashmiris in the same manner as the lunar Navroz and is referred to as Sonth.
Thal Bharun (meaning ‘filling the platter’) is a major Navroz tradition. It is similar to the Iranian Haft Sin. The items placed on the tray or platter generally include wheat or rice , a sweet pudding made from milk and cereal, fruits, walnuts, rosewater, a coin (sikkeh), a pen, an ink-holder, a mirror (for introspection, purity of thought and honesty), and a lit diya or clay lamp (representing satyaprakasa, the Light of the Truth). Besides, new clothes are worn and presents are exchanged. Some adults, particularly women, fast on this day.
Nowruz in the Twelver Shi’a faith and Shia Ismaili Faith
Along with Ismailis, Alawites and Alevis, the Twelver Shi’a also hold the day of Nowruz in high regard.
Here are the events that took place on this amazing day as enumerated by Imam Jafar as Sadiq, Hazrat Ali’s great grandson, in the summary above, source – Muhammad Bakir Majlisi in his Bihar al-Anwar:
• God made a covenant with the souls before creation • Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion • Adam was created • Prophet Abraham destroyed the pagan idols that were being worshipped by his father and others • The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), the night of Layla tul Qadr – Night of Power • Prophet Muhammad took Hazrat Ali on his shoulders to smash 360 idols in Mecca • Prophet Muhammad declared Ali as his legitimate successor at Gadhir-e Khumm • Hazrat Ali was born on Navroz (on the solar calendar, the lunar Muslim calendar had not yet been established until the Hijra, the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Medina) in the Kaaba that was built by Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ismael (Ibrahim and Ismail) • Hazrat Salman Farsi, Al-Fars (Salman the Persian) converted to Islam on Navroz and used to prepare special sufro (offering of food and sweets) on the day of Navroz for Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali.
“O you who believe! When you consult the Apostle, then offer something in offering (mehmani, sufro) before your consultation; that is better for you and purer; but if you do not find (the means), then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful” – Quran 58.12
The day upon which Nowruz falls has been recommended as a day of fasting for Twelver Shi’a Muslims by Shi’a scholars, including Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, Imam Khomeini and Ali al-Sistani. The day also assumes special significance for Shias as it was on 21 March 656 AD when the first Imam Hazrat Ali assumed the office of Caliphate.
Navroz celebration by Shia Muslims of Lucknow
Shia Muslims of Pakistan, and Kashmir also celebrates Nowruz with zeal. According to Shia’s of Lucknow’s belief it is celebrated to mark the day when Ali was declared the successor of prophet.
Nowruz in Afghanistan
Nowroz is celebrated widely in Afghanistan. Also known as Farmer’s Day, the observances usually last two weeks, culminating on the first day of the Afghan New Year, March 21. During the Taliban rule (1996–2001), Nowruz was banned and considered an “ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship”. Preparations for Nowroz start several days beforehand, at least after Chaharshanbe Suri, the last Wednesday before the New Year. Among various traditions and customs, the most important ones are as following:
Nowruz in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan
Guli Surkh festival (Persian: ميلهى گل سرخ): The Guli Surkh festival which literally means Red Flower Festival (referring to the red Tulip flowers) is the principal festival for Nowroz. It is celebrated in Mazar-e Sharif during the first 40 days of the year when the Tulip flowers grow in the green plains and over the hills surrounding the city. People from all over the country travel to Mazari Sharif to attend the Nawroz festivals. Various activities and customs are performed during the Guli Surkh festival, including the Jahenda Bala event and Buzkashi games.
Jahenda Bālā (Persian: جهنده بالا; old persian zoroastrian term Zend or Zand Persian: ژند ): Jahenda Bala is celebrated on the first day of the New Year (i.e. Nawroz), and is attended by high-ranking government officials such as the Vice-President, Ministers, and Provincial Governors. It is a specific religious ceremony performed in the Blue Mosque of Mazar that is believed (mostly by Sunnite Afghans) to be the site of the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph of Islam. The ceremony is performed by raising a special banner whose color configuration resembles Derafsh Kaviani. This is the biggest recorded Nowroz gathering where up to 200,000 people from all over Afghanistan get together in Mazar central park around blue mosque to celebrate the banner raising (Jahenda Bālā ) ceremony.
Buzkashi: Along with other customs and celebrations, normally a Buzkashi tournament is held during the Guli Surkh festival in Mazaris Sharif, Kabul and other northern cities of Afghanistan.
Haft Mēwa (Persian: هفت میوه): In Afghanistan, people prepare Haft Mēwa (literally translates as Seven Fruits) instead of Haft Sin which is common in Iran. Haft Mewa is like a Fruit salad made from 7 different Dried fruits, served in their own syrup. The 7 dried fruits are: Raisin, Senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), Pistachio, Hazelnut, Prune (dry fruit of Apricot), Walnut and whether Almond or another species of Plum fruit.
Samanak: It is a special type of sweet dish made from germinated wheat, and is normally cooked or prepared on the eve of Nawroz or a few days before the Nawroz. Women take a special party for it during the night, and cook it from late in the evening till the daylight, singing a special song: Samanak dar Josh o mā Kafcha zanem – Dochtaran* dar Khwāb o mā Dafcha zanem (* Dochter mains 1 daughter 2 young Lady or girl)
Special cuisines: People cook special types of dishes for Nowroz, especially on the eve of Nowroz. Normally they cook Sabzi Chalaw, a dish made from rice and spinach, separately. Moreover, the bakeries prepare a special type of cookie, called Kulcha-e Nowrozī, which is only baked for Nowroz. Another dish which is prepared mostly for the Nowroz days is Māhī wa Jelabī (Fried Fish and Jelabi) and it is the most often meal in picnics. In Afghanistan, it is a common custom among the affianced families that the fiancé’s family give presents to or prepare special dishes for the fiancée’s family on special occasions such as in the two Eids (Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha), Barā’at and in Nowroz. Hence, the special dish for Nowroz is Māhī wa Jelabī.
Sightseeing to Cercis fields: The citizens of Kabul go to Istalif, Charikar or other green places around where the Cercis flowers grow. They go for picnic with their families during the first 2 weeks of New Year.
Jashn-e Dehqān: Jashn-e Dehqan means The Festival of Farmers. It is celebrated in the first day of year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. In recent years, this activity is being performed only in Kabul and other major cities, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate for watching and observing.
Kampirak: Like “Haji Nowruz” in Iran, he is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature yielding the forces of winter. He and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people and do his shows like reciting poems. The tradition is observed in central provinces specially Bamyan and Daykundi. Novruz in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani youth celebrating Novruz.
Usually preparation for Novruz begins a month prior to the festival. Each of forthcoming 4 weeks is devoted to one of the four elements and called accordingly in Azerbaijan. Each Tuesday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind.People do house cleaning, plant trees, make new dresses, paint eggs, make national pastries such as shekerbura, pakhlava, shorgoghal and a great variety of national cuisine. Wheat is fried with kishmish (raisins) and nuts (govurga). As a tribute to fire-worshiping every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday kids jump over small bonfires and candles are lit. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and tended.
Novruz is a family holiday. In the evening before the holiday the whole family gathers around the holiday table laid with various dishes to make the New Year rich. The holiday goes on for several days and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk bands, contests of national sports. In rural areas crop holidays are marked.
The decoration of the festive table is khoncha, a big silver or copper tray with Samani placed in the centre and candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it. The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.
On the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, according to old traditions children slip around to their neighbours’ homes and apartments, knock at their doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds all the while hiding nearby waiting for candies, pastries and nuts.
Novruz celebration in China
Traditionally, “Nawriz” was celebrated mainly in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Uyghur, Chinese Tajik, Salar, and Kazakh ethnicities.
Newroz in Turkey
“Churshama Kulla” is the tradition where people jump over the fire.It is celebrated as a national emblem in Kurdistan. In this Picture Kurds in Istanbul celebrate Newroz through coming together and showing their cultural unity.
Although the Kurds celebrate Nowruz, it was not however until 2005 that Kurdish population of Turkey could celebrate their new year openly. “Thousands of people have been detained in Turkey, as the authorities take action against suspected supporters of the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK. The holiday is now official in Turkey after international pressure on the Turkish government to lift culture bans. Turkish government renamed the holiday Nevroz in 1995. In the last years, limitations on expressions of Kurdish national identity, including the usage of Kurdish in the public sphere, have been considerably lifted off.
The word ‘Newroz’ is Kurdish for ‘Nowruz’. The Kurds celebrate this feast between 18th till 21 March. It is one of the few ‘people’s celebrations’ that has survived and predates all the major religious festivals. The holiday is considered by Kurds to be the single most important holiday of every year.
With this festival Kurds gather into the fairgrounds mostly outside the cities to welcome spring. Women wear colored dresses and spangled head scarves and young men wave flags of green, yellow and red, the colors of the Kurdish people. They hold this festival by lighting fire and dancing around it.
The main Kurdish greeting that accompanies the festival is Newroz pîroz be! literally translating to “Congratulations on the New Year” or equivalent to Happy Newroz!. Another greeting used is, Bijî Newroz!, simply meaning Long live Newroz!
Newroz is still largely considered as a potent symbol of Kurdish identity in Turkey. Newroz celebrations are usually organised by Kurdish cultural associations and pro-Kurdish political parties. Thus, the Democratic Society Party was a leading force in the organisation of the 2006 Newroz events throughout Turkey. In recent years the Newroz celebration gathers around 1 million participants in Diyarbakır, the biggest city of the Kurdish dominated Southeastern Turkey. As the Kurdish Newroz celebrations in Turkey often are theater for political messages, the events are frequently criticized for being political rallies rather than cultural celebrations. On 21 March 2013, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan called for a ceasefire through a message that was released in Diyarbakır during the Newroz celebrations.
In other largely populated Kurdish regions in the Middle East including Iraq and Syria, similar celebrations are carried out with fire, dancing and music. In Iran, it is the most important festival of the whole year.
In Kurdistan, jumping over the fire (known as Chuwarshama Kulla) happens on New Year’s Eve (rather the last Tuesday of the year).
Nowruz in Pakistan
This festival is like Nowruz of Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.Peoples of Gilgit Baltistan are called gbians (gbians, gb people, Balti) In Northern Pakistan (Chitral, Gilgit, Baltistan) because of Ismaili Majority, population there, and Northern Punjab Nowruz is celebrated as a socio-religious festival. It is also celebrated with much fervour in Balochistan, and in almost all of Pakistan’s major urban centres . The day coincides with the Spring Equinox on March 21, but the celebration continues for weeks. In Baltistan, the main features of Nowruz are the giving of coloured eggs to friends signifying the earth and polo matches. In Balochistan, the festival is marked with outdoor feasts, and the traditional jumping over a fire to wash away sins and usher in a fresh start. The origins of this festival are pre-Islamic and date back to when Pakistan was part of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persian empires.
It is a part of Burusho people’s culture.
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nowruz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and calling on world countries to draw on the holiday’s rich history to promote peace and goodwill. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In response to the UN recognition, Iran unveiled a postage stamp. The stamp was made public in the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran on Saturday, 27 March 2010. President Ahmadinejad also called for joint efforts to further acquaint the world about the meaningful holiday, adding that it could significantly promote global peace and justice: “Observing Norooz will not only promote cultural values, but it will also help nations establish relations based on friendship, peace, justice and respect.”
The second International Nowruz Celebrations were also held in Tehran in 2011. The 3rd International Nowruz Celebrations were held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 25, 2012 with Tajik President and his Iranian, Afghan counterparts in attendance. Turkmenistan is scheduled to host the next international ceremonies to celebrate Nowruz.
A variety of spelling variations for the word “Norooz” exist in English-language usage. Random House (unabridged) provides the spelling “nowruz”. Merriam-Webster (2006) recognizes only the spelling “nauruz” (and a contestant in the final session of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee, Allion Salvador, in the United States was disqualified on that basis . In the USA, many respected figures in the field of language such as Dr. Yarshater at Columbia University have suggested to use Nowruz.