Cultural Mosaic – A New Day: The Celebration of Norooz

Canada is a multicultural nation that celebrates many different cultural, religious, and spiritual events. An important Persian festival is Norooz, or ?New Day? in Farsi. It is an ancient, traditional, and vibrant celebration that occurs annually in many parts of the world.

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Persian New Year celebration arrives on the first day of spring. It begins precisely at the commencement of spring, or vernal equinox, on March 20. The exact moment spring arrives is called Saal Tahvil. The current Iranian calendar year is 1386. The Iranian year generally starts from March 21 of the Gregorian calendar, and ends on the 20th of the next year.

Norooz has ancient associations: over 2,500 years ago, Zoroastrians, worshippers of the dominant religion of the Persian Empire, rejoiced each spring with the concepts of ?The End? and ?Rebirth.? Zoroastrians celebrated Farvardgan. This event lasted 10 days and took place at the end of the solar year. Farvardgan was a festival of sorrow and mourning, signifying the end of life while, conversely, Norooz represented the beginning of spring, signified rebirth, and was a time of great joy and celebration.

In celebration of Norooz, seven items are placed together: these items all start with the letter seen?phonetically equivalent to the letter S in English. These decorations are called Haft Seen or the seven S.

These seven items are: Sekke (coin), Serke (vinegar), Sabze (green grass), Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a dried fruit of the oleaster tree), Seeb (apple), and Seer (garlic). Sometimes, instead of Serke, Somagh (an Iranian spice) is included.

Each of the items brings meaning and significance to Norooz. For instance, coins represent wealth and prosperity, vinegar symbolizes age and patience, while green grass symbolizes rebirth. Also present is a mirror for the reflection of life, candles signifying the light of life, and a goldfish in a bowl as a sign of living form. Other items may include painted eggs for each member of the family, or traditional Persian pastries and bread to indicate a plentiful year, but other variations are also possible.

Some of the traditions of Norooz include purchasing new clothes, spring cleaning, giving presents, visiting family and friends, and celebrating the arrival of spring. Just as Christmas brings out greetings of ?Merry Christmas,? Norooz followers greet one another with ?Eideh Shoma Morak? or ?Happy New Norooz.? The first 13 days of the year are a time of happiness.

The real purpose of the joyful days of Norooz is to rediscover an original state of purity and equality. Norooz allows the opportunity for families to socialize and pay respect to elders. It is tradition for younger members of the family to visit older members who then reciprocate this act. Relations with friends and neighbours begin anew. The period of mourning for those who died the previous year is ended with the arrival of flowers and new blossoms.

The routine of daily life is interrupted, though indulgence in debauchery is not encouraged or accepted. Distances due to social rank are abolished. Similar to Christmas, businesses and schools close and people gather at home to be close to loved ones. A traditional meal is served made of steamed rice with chopped parsley, dill, and chives served with fish, known as Sabzi Polo ba Mahi.

The two-week long Norooz celebration ends with Seezdeh Bedar. Seezdeh means 13 and Seezdeh Bedar is the process of getting over with or passing over the thirteenth day of the New Year. Similar in concept to the 12 days of Christmas, on the ?Thirteenth day outside? or Seezdeh, Iranians go for picnics to welcome spring. The green grass used as part of Haft Seen has sprouted by this time and is thrown into a stream, river, or current of moving water. This day is usually celebrated outdoors in a picnic style. This is the last day of celebrations, as people will return to their daily lives the following day. The festival of Norooz is over, but spring is just beginning.

People of varied ethnic backgrounds, political views, religions, and nationalities celebrate Norooz. The celebration occurs in many countries around the globe such as Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan, Iraq, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Armenia. Also, there are large celebrations in major cities such as Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, and London reflecting the international scope of Norooz.

Norooz is not about materialism but is rather much more focused on friendship, respect, and turning the page to a new year full of prosperity and good wishes. Iranians share a great pride in their culture. I hope you take the opportunity to discover this ancient and vibrant celebration.

Happy New Year or Eideh Shoma Morak!

%d bloggers like this: