Nowruz – The Iranian New Year
Nowruz is one of the oldest celebrations in the world. It has been a fixture on the cultural calendar in many regions for more than 2,500 years. It marks the beginning of spring and also the change of seasons in the Iranian solar calendar. Sharam Ahad offers his impressions of the celebrations.
Traditional dances: Nowruz celebrations prominently feature dancing, even in countries such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kirgizstan (photo). People congregate on public squares or in stadiums, where New Year festivities are organized.
Spanning all the way to China: In 2009, UNESCO included Nowruz, one of the oldest celebrations of mankind, in its world cultural heritage list. The celebrations marking the spring equinox (March 20- 21) are held in a vast area comprising the Middle East, Central Asia, and even beyond, including the Uighur regions of western China.
Kurdish celebration: Nowruz is also an important holiday for Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Celebrations were banned for decades in Turkey and Syria. Since 1994, Nowruz has been officially recognized as a traditional Turkish festivity, which was first officially celebrated nationwide in 1995. The photo shows celebrations in southeast Turkey.
Burning enthusiasm: The origins of Nowruz date back to the pre-Islamic history of Iran. Authorities in the Islamic Republic tolerate the festivity with reluctance but have never been able to restrict it. In particular, the country's moral guardians dislike the popular tradition of "fire jumping" on the streets on the eve of the holiday.
The "Chaharshanbe Suri" fire ritual: People jump over bonfires and while singing this song: "Give me your warmth, take away my cold, give me your red, take away my yellow (referring to a pale complexion).
Spring-cleaning: Somehow, spring and cleaning belong together. While the tradition in Germany is to wash windows, Iranians are keen to air out their carpets at this time of year. In Iran, spring-cleaning is called "shaking the house."
Good fortune seven times over: The seven S's and their meanings are: Sekkeh (coins = prosperity), Sib (apple = health), Somaq (fragrant sumac = "the taste of life"), Sonbol (hyacinths = friendship), Sir (garlic = protection), Senjed (oleaster = "the seed of life"), and Serkeh (vinegar = happiness), as well as Samanou, a paste made from the germ of seven grains.
Swimming lucky charms: Days before the start of New Year's festivities, goldfish can be found for sale everywhere. They are intended to decorate the "Haft Sin," the traditional Nowruz table setting, symbolizing life and good fortune.
Herald of Nowruz: The "Haji Firuz" is the traditional herald of the New Year in Iran. With singing and dance, he spreads cheer and joy in anticipation of Nowruz. Clad in red clothes, the Haji Firuz is meant to symbolize warmth and good cheer.
Nowruz at the White House: First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Nowruz celebrations in Washington in mid-March this year, which of course included traditional dancing and "Haft Sin".
"Haft Sin", the "seven S's": the "Haft Sin" ritual is an integral part of Nowruz celebrations first and foremost in Iran, but also in Afghanistan. It is a table or tablecloth set with the "seven S's": The table, or a tablecloth spread out on the floor, is set with seven things that begin with "S" in Persian and that are symbolic of the new year.