Persian New Year, or Nowruz, takes place on March 21st, the first day of Spring, and symbolizes a renewal of energy, using a few key practices and traditions to cleanse and begin anew. After all, Nowruz translates to “new day.”
Persian culture believes that Spring is the strongest signifier of rebirth, and thus Nowruz uses many practices made to prepare for March 21st. The first is known as Chahar Shanbe Suri (چهارشنبهسوری,). Rooted in Zoroastrian tradition, Chahar Shanbe Suri is the last Wednesday before the New Year, and is celebrated with the practice of jumping over fire. Candles are lit and set in a row, or in some instances larger contained fires are made. Celebrators jump over each flame, reciting a poem that recalls the nature of the fire and how it cleanses away uncertainty and cold, replacing them with warmth and light.
After Chahar Shanbe Suri, Iranian households create their Haft-Seen tables, an arrangement of seven symbolic items starting with Persian letter “س,” pronounced “Seen.” These items are meant to celebrate and symbolize Spring and Iranian culture to usher in the New Year. These items include Sabzeh, lentil beans left in a dish of water until they sprout, Sekkeh, which are gold coins, and Sonbol, meaning hyacinth flowers. Even items that don’t start with the letter “س,” are still included, like goldfish swimming in a bowl to symbolize progress, books to symbolize wisdom, and a mirror to symbolize self-reflection.
The Haft-Seen tables are always arranged beautifully, not only embodying traditional and spiritual values, but also creating a reflection of each family’s aesthetic taste.
As March 21st arrives in the Persian time zone, Sharbat, or rose water, is passed around to drink to start the New Year sweetly. Children are often gifted money for their prosperity, and prayers of gratitude and success are exchanged. Above all, Nowruz is a time to be thankful. After marking the day with peaceful practices meant to symbolize renewal, Iranians look forward to a new year. Oftentimes, their Sabzeh—the sprouted lentils used for the Haft-Seen table—are taken to a river or stream and left to flow into nature and serve it.
At its core, Persian culture has always been a celebration of life and beauty, and Nowruz is marked by this every year.