Nowruz: Persian New Year’s Eve, a Tradition that Spans for Thousands of Years
Nowruz is the Persian New Year’s Eve which marks the beginning of a new year in the Solar Calendar. Nowruz tradition dates back to more than 3000 years ago. It is the celebration of the spring when the earth is rejuvenated and brings about the promise of a new way of life. Apart from Iran, Nowruz is celebrated in most Middle Eastern countries, including Afghanistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, etc. Nowruz is celebrated in other parts of the world, including Central Asia, South Asia, the Balkans, and East Africa. Nowruz is the celebration of a new life and a new beginning for both the earth and the human beings living on earth. The celebration of Nowruz in Iran is a common tradition passed between generations.
The Difference between Solar Year and Gregorian Calendar
The Iranian Solar calendar was established in 1922. Iranian solar year starts with the first day of the spring. Each solar year has 12 months, including Farvardin (31 days), Ordibehesht (31 days), Khordad (31 days), Tir (31 days), Mordad (31 days), Shahrivar (31 days), Mehr (30 days), Aban (30 days), Azar (30 days), Dey (30 days), Bahman (30 days), and Esfand (29-30 days). Every four years, the last month of the year, Esfand, has 30 days which makes it a leap year. This year marks the 1401st year of the solar calendar.
Gregorian calendar, which is the calendar used in most parts of the world, was proposed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582; It starts on January 1st. The Julian calendar, the calendar that preceded the Gregorian calendar, celebrated the New Year on December the 25th, the birth date of Jesus Christ. However, as of 1600, January the 1st was decided as the first day of the year and the time from December 25th and January 1st was traditionally celebrated as Christmas Holidays. This year marks the 2022nd year of the Gregorian calendar.
The Haft Sin Table
Haft Sin table is the most significant part of the Nowruz Tradition. After the convergence of Iranians to Islam, they replaced the original Nowruz table with the Haft Sin table. The original Nowruz table was the Haft Shin table which included the items: Sharab (red wine), Shamshad (Buxus), Shahd (Honey), Sham (Candle), Shirini (Cookies), Sharbat (Syrup), and Shaghayegh (Poppy Flower) which was later replaced by the Haft Sin table. Iranians have a tradition of welcoming the New Year’s by setting the Haft Sin table. The Haft Sin table is a table set by ‘Haft’ items – ‘Haft’ is a Farsi term for that stands for number ‘Seven’ – that start with ‘Sin’ - suggesting ‘items that start with ‘s’ in Farsi language’. The Haft Sin is a table of 7, or more, items that start with the letter ‘s’ in the Farsi language. Each item brings about a special notion that the household would like to experience in the New Year.
- Sekkeh (Coin): The first item that is placed on the Haft Sin table is Sekkeh or Coins. Coins represent a sense of wealth and abundance in the coming year.
- Sib (Apple): The second item that is placed on the Haft Sin table is Sib or Apple. Apple represents health and wellbeing in the coming year. After all, you know what they say: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
- Senjed (Russian olive or Trebizond Date): On the Haft Sin table, Senjed or Russian olive represents reason and rationality. Iranians put in on the table while committing to themselves that all of their actions in the coming year will be directed by reason, and not impulsivity.
- Sumac: Sumac which reminds one of the burning red colors of the sun when it rises, represents the notion of new beginnings. It also brings about the element of joy and happiness. Placing it on the Haft Sin table indicates that one hopes to start the New Year with a spirit of joy and resilience.
- Samanu: Samanu is a Persian dessert that is created from germinated wheat. Iranians place Samanu on the Haft Sin table because they believe it brings about abundance and prosperity to their lives. Furthermore, Samanu is believed to represent power.
- Sir (Garlic): Sir or Garlic is placed on the Haft Sin table to cast away ill health and bad luck. Because of its medicinal purposes, Garlic is placed on the Haft Sin table to drive away all sickness and diseases from the body and the mind. In ancient times, it was believed that Garlic helped moderate one’s temper as well as one’s health. Furthermore, Garlic is placed on the table to drive away evil spirits since it is believed that they fear the smell and shall not enter the household and bring it bad luck.
- Sabzeh (Greens): Sabzeh or Green Plants that are raised mainly to place on the Nowruz table. Sabzeh is probably the most beautiful element that is placed on the Haft Sin table since ancient times. Persians believed that it represents the solidarity of man with nature.
Other items that are traditionally placed on the Haft Sin table include the following:
- Goldfish: Goldfish represents the element of life, generation, and movement. Traditionally, Goldfish is placed on the Haft Sin table as a promise of having a year filled with joy and fulfilling activities ahead. Goldfish are also known to bring about luck.
- Tokhme Morgh (Eggs): While it does not start with ‘s’, eggs are also placed on the Haft Sin table. The egg represents the notion of ‘fetus’, ‘birth’, and reproduction and it is placed on the Haft Sin table to bring about a year filled with life and generation.
- Ayeneh (Mirror): A mirror is also placed on the Haft Sin table since it represents the sense of honesty and truth. After all, the mirror never lies, it shows what it sees. Placing a mirror on the table sets out a sense of truthfulness and honesty with oneself and others in motion for the coming year.
- Sham (Candle): Another item that is placed on the Haft Sin table is Sham or Candle. Candles bring about a sense of light and clarity. Candles are placed on the Haft Sin table to pave your path with light and success in the coming year.
- The Holy Quran: the Holy Quran is an item that is most certainly placed on the Haft Sin table within a Muslim and Iranian household. Upholding the teachings of Islam and the Quran is what a Muslim is always aspiring to. Specifically, at the beginning of a new year, a true Muslim commits to serving his God with whatever he does and asks his God to guide his steps through His divine plan.