How much do you know about Persian New Year called Nowruz? Did you know that there is an equivalent for Santa Claus in Persian culture called Uncle Nowruz? Or did you know that you might have guests at your home at 3 a.m., right after the arrival of Nowruz?
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Nowruz is the name of the Persian New Year and marks the First day of Spring. It has been celebrated for more than 3000 years not only in Iran, but in other countries as well. Celebrating Nowruz has become so widespread that in 2010, United Nation's General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz. Canadian Parliament also added Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada in 2009.
So what does Nowruz mean? The word "Nowruz" is a Persian compound word, consisting of two words: "No" ,meaning "New" [pause] and Ruz , meaning "Day". Nowruz, therefore means that a "New Day" has begun, signaling the beginning of the new year. Interestingly, despite its popularity around the world, there is little agreement on the correct spelling of Nowruz and numerous variations exist. Examples include Nourooz, Nouruz, Norouz, Norooz, Narooz, Nawru, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Nohrooz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, Nowroj, Navroj, Nevruz, Newroz, Navruz, Navrez, Nooruz, Nauryz, Nevruz,& Nowrouz!
As their most important national Holiday, a typical Iranian family usually prepares for Nowruz, couple of weeks in advance. They start with a tradition called Khooneh Tekouni, which literally means "Shaking the House". Many spend days and days cleaning every spot of their home before the beginning of the new year.
Close to the arrival of Nowruz, you might encounter men dressed in red on streets of Iran, whose faces are covered in soot. Called Haji Firuz, these men are the heralds of Nowruz. They sing and dance and deliver the news that Nowruz is coming. Haji Firooz is the sidekick of Uncle Nowuz, the equivalent of Santa Claus in Persian culture. Similar to Santa Claus, Uncle Nowruz, is also an old man with white beard, who brings gifts and good luck of people.
The most prominent symbol of Nowruz is called Haft Sin table and Iranians put extra care to decorate it. Haft Seen, in Farsi means " The Seven S's ". It has seven items that start with letter "S" and each item represents an important symbol of life:
Perhaps the most important element is Sabzeh, which is wheat or lentil sprouts grown in a dish. It is a Symbol of rebirth.
Sib (or Apple) is a Symbol of Beauty & Health.
Sir (or Garlic) is a Symbol of Medicine.
Serkeh (or Vinegar) is a Symbol of age and patience.
Sumac is the Symbol of The Color of Sunrise.
Senjed , or silver berry is the Symbol of Love
And finally, Samanu, which is sweet pudding is the Symbol of Affluence.
A Haft Sin table usually includes a holy or a well-known poetry book, a mirror , coins, decorated eggs, lit candles , a bowl of water with goldfish and dried nuts. All in all, Haft Sin tables are usually decorated elegantly and are very colorful!
Iranians start the celebration of Nowruz at the time of the Spring equinox, or the first day of spring, which is around March 21st. This is the time of the year that sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.
Nowruz celebrations last for 12 days. Schools and many offices are closed during this period, when visiting friends and family is the main activity. Iranians regard the 13th day as a bad luck day. In order to avoid the bad luck associated with the number 13, they go outdoors for picnics on the 13th day of Spring. This day is called "Sizdah Bedar", which means "getting rid of the 13th".
Traditionally, on Sizdeh bedar, some girls tie the leaves of their Sabzeh dish before throwing it away. When they tie, they express their wish to get married before the next year's Sizdah Bedar!
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Music: " Bahar amad" by Bijan Khavari