Today is Nowruz (Know-Rooz), meaning “New Day” and is the name of the Persian New Year. In 2010, the UN’s General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is the specific time when Persian families gather together to observe New Year rituals. For me, I always feel a true sense of renewal during and after Nowroz leading up to my birthday in mid April.
2013 Nowruz Celebration at the Freer Gallery of Art/ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/ International Gallery and S. Dillon Ripley Center
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This year my family enjoyed doing something a little different. The daylong festivities featured entertaining programs for all ages. Our favorites included performances by the Nomad Dancers and the “Fire” jumping which symbolized the celebration of the seasons changing and rebirth.
Persian New Year Fire Jumping, Parade, and Celebration in NYC 2011
Nowruz Family Traditions
Many Persians begin the New Year with a thorough spring-cleaning of their entire home a few days before the actual New Year so that they begin the New Year with a clean start. At the strike of the clock indicating the New Year, families are typically adorned with new dresses and suits gathering 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.
Traditional Nowruz Food
Lucky for me, my mother prepares the intricate New Year dishes with some help from Costco, which sells smoked whiting that is served with Sabzi Polo, rice with green herbs along with another New Year staple, Kookoo sabzi that has nothing to do with the movie The One That Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest! This tantalizing dish is a light and fluffy omelet made from parsley, dill, coriander, spinach, spring onions, chives, walnuts, red currants and of course eggs. Personally, I like my New Year's plate paired with tadeek; my two year old refers to it as the “crunchies” and it is rice purposefully burnt to a golden crisp. Sometimes my mother will add thin slices of potato to the rice making it extra crispy.
Haft Sin (Haf Seen)
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.
Haft Sin Items and Symbolism
Mirror- cleanness and honesty
Rose Water- believed to have magical cleansing powers
Wheat or Barley Sprouts- plants
Goldfish- turn of New Year and it’s beginning- the sign of
Pisces which is the sun leaving)
Painted Eggs- Fertility
Samanu- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ- symbolizing affluence
Senied- the dried fruit of the Oleaster Tree- love
Sumac- the color of the sunrise
Vinegar- age and patience
Traditional Persian pastries
Dried nuts, berries, and raisins
The national colors- for a patriotic touch
A holy book (e.g. Qur’an, Torah, Bible) and/or a poetry book
A short video showing the Haft Sin Table