Naw Ruz – March 21st. Persian New Year
Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with the stories of Persia and the Middle East, such as “1001 Nights”, Scheherazade, Sinbad, Gilgamesh, Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar, and the beautiful buildings covered with blue mosaics. Well, it turns out that Persia, is home to one of the world’s oldest continuous major civilizations, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 7000 BC. In 1935 its name changed from Persia to Iran.
This Spring is the celebration of Naw rúz the Persian New Year. Naw Rúz dates back approximately 3,000 years and is rooted in Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism is an ancient Persian religion the predates Christianity and Islam. Millions of people around the world celebrate this holiday. Today it is a cultural festival that celebrates the end of winter and welcomes the hope, the warm, and the new beginning Spring brings. Naw rúz means “New Day”.
Like most holidays around the world, people prepare for it by cleaning their homes, and getting rid of clutter to start fresh in the new year. Then one week before, people usually children place lentils in a dish with a wet paper napkin so they sprout into a mass of green blades on the day of Naw rúz.
On New Year’s Eve is The celebration of chahar shanbeh soori
Chahârshanbe Sûrî is the night before the last Wednesday of the year. This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad). People make bonfires in the streets or in their yard and jump over them, shouting: “Sorkhi to az man or zardie man az to!” This translates to “Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly yellow pallor.” Families get together and serve different kinds of pastries and Ajeel.
The sofreh haft seen (nowruz table)
Another important Nowruz tradition is the Sofreh Haft Seen, or the table setting that includes seven specific items starting with the letter ‘S’ (or Seen in the Persian alphabet). This table setting is prepared right before Nowruz and remains out for two weeks, or until Sizeh Bedar, a picnic celebrated to mark the end of the Nowruz celebrations.
Seeb (apple), beauty
Seer (garlic), good health
Serkeh (vinegar), patience
Sonbol (hyacinth), spring
Samanu (sweet pudding), fertility
Sabzeh (lentil sprouts), rebirth
Senjed – (dried fruit of the oleaster tree), love
Sekeh (coins), prosperity
Sumaq – (sumac berries) the color of sunrise
Other elements to include:
Candles for enlightenment and happiness – A mirror symbolizing reflexion and honesty – Decorated eggs for fertility – Seven branches from gnarled trees (olive and pomegranate symbolizes our life’s passage) – A poetry book (almost always either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafez)
Activities that children can do to celebrate Naw rúz
According to Laura from “Family Spice“, Naw rúz offers fun, easy, Naw rúz recipes, and activities ideal for parents, teachers, to know more about the origins of Nowrúz and to get everyone involved:
• baking Haji Firuz cookies • germinating seeds in eggshells • coloring eggs • making a Now rúz garland • jumping over fires • setting the Haft-sinn (seven-s) holiday table • planting narcissus and hyacinth bulbs • selecting and buying goldfish • banging spoons for trick-or-treating • cooking the Naw rúz dinner • enjoying the Outdoor Thirteen picnic.
Special Foods to eat at during Naw-rúz celebration.
Persian families eat the same traditional foods to celebrate naw-rúz. Although they might vary in preparation or style, these symbolic dishes are a very important part of the Persian new year tradition.
- Sabzi Polo Mahi: The main course is usually rice with green herbs served with fish. Fish has long symbolized life and good luck and green is the color symbolizing fruitfulness.
- Ash-e Reshteh: A hearty soup cooked with noodles, which is said to symbolically help one succeed in life.
- Kookoo-ye sabzi: An omelette-like souffle made with herbs and green vegetables. It is believed that eating kookoo-ye sabzi it will bring prosperity and happiness in the year to come.
- Reshteh Polo: a rice dish cooked with noodles.
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