Nowruz is perhaps the most famous tradition of Iranians. Persian New Year is celebrated on the first day of spring by Iranians and it’s a celebration for the rebirth of nature. The new year and the traditions of celebrating it are called Nowruz which means “New Day” in Persian. It marks the first day of spring as a symbol of a new beginning. Interestingly, the Persian New Year starts at the exact hour and minute of the first day of spring. No matter what time of the day or night it is, people will dress up and celebrate the moment of a new year being arrived. Here’s a list of what you need to know about this ancient celebration.
Khooneh Tekouni: Cleaning the House
One of the most important traditions of Nowruz is cleaning the house weeks before the big day. It’s not an ordinary cleaning routine! Khooneh Tekouni – which means “shaking the house” in Persian – includes cleaning each and every corner, cleaning inside all of the kitchen cabinets, washing the carpets, repairing any broken thing in the household and decorating the house very tastefully. That’s why the word “shaking the house” is a perfect metaphor for describing the whole process!
Khooneh Tekouni is a symbolic way to get rid of all bad memories from the past year and prepare for a fresh beginning. In the old times, all of the family members would contribute to the Khooneh Tekouni tradition. But nowadays many families prefer to have the house cleaned by the help of cleaning services. Either way it’s supposed to imply the fresh start for welcoming a new year full of positivity.
Chaharshanbeh Soori: The Last Wednesday of the Year
Chaharshanbeh Soori is the last Wednesday of the year and is a pre-Nowruz Celebration. In this day, families gather together, lit bonfires and jump over them as a fun and entertaining way to say goodbye to all the bad and evil of the year which is coming to an end. This tradition has roots in the symbolic value of fire for ancient Iranians. They believed that fire is a sacred element of nature and can burn away bad luck and evil.
Chaharshanbeh Soori is celebrated with a special kind of Ajeel – a mixture of different nuts – and is characterized by spending happy hours with the family. Some families have a tradition of eating Ash-e-Reshteh in Chaharshanbeh Soori and some enjoy listening to old stories being narrated by the grandparents. It’s a night full of music, dance, laughter and joy.
Chaharshanbeh Soori is somehow similar to Yalda night which is another Persian Celebration characterized by family gatherings, eating Ajeel and spending delightful hours with the loved ones. However, jumping over bonfires is specific to Chaharshanbe Soori. Click here to read more about Yalda as the longest night of the year.
The Seven seens: Seven Elements of the Nowruz Table
The most famous thing about Nowruz is the Haft Seen for sure. “Seen” is the letter in Persian Alphabets that sounds like” s”. As you can guess, it’s a beautifully decorated table with 7 elements which all begin with the sound “s” in Persian. Interestingly, each of these elements symbolizes something. The process of buying these elements and preparing the Haft Seen table is so joyful that people usually start it form weeks before Nowruz.
Let’s see what these elements mean:
Sabzeh: the sprouted wheat grass, Sabzeh is one of the main elements of Haft Seen Table. It symbolizes the rebirth of nature in spring.
Samanu: It’s a pudding made from wheat and it symbolizes sweet and joy. The process of making Samanu is so difficult that requires hours of patience in the kitchen. But it’s so delicious that is worth the effort!
Seeb: Seeb is the Persian word for apple. Apple is a symbol of health in most cultures and its presence on the Haft Seen Table means the new year will be full of health and happiness.
Senjed: It’s the fruit of Persian Olive tree and has a sweet taste. This fruit is also known as Russian Olive or Wild Olive. These tiny dried fruits symbolize wisdom. Therefore, by putting them on the table, people promise themselves to act wisely in the new year.
Sekeh: Sekeh is the Persian word for coin. Obviously, coins symbolize prosperity. So if you want to become rich in the new year, put some coins on the table!
Seer: Seer, which is garlic in Persian language, symbolizes health. It’s also a symbol of not being greedy in the upcoming year.
Somac: It’s a kind of spice made from crushed berries. It has a sour taste and symbolizes sunrise due to its bright color. In addition, some people believe that it symbolizes motivation.
Sonbol: the beautiful hyacinth symbolizes spring and its beauties. Not to mention that its lovely smell brings a delightful vibe into the house.
Besides these seven elements which all have a “S” sound in common, there are other things that have to be on a Haft Seen table. A mirror and two candles, sweets and candies, painted eggs and a goldfish are other elements of this beautiful ensemble. However, many people have stopped buying goldfish in the last few years in order to avoid hurting them. Religious people put a Quran on the Haft Seen in order to start the new year with the love of god. Some peple put a book of poetries of Hafiz on the table for it has a great value in Iranian culture.
Painted eggs, which are of the loveliest elements of the Hafseen Table, can be found in Nowruz street markets weeks before the new year. But coloring them with paint or decorating them with glitter is so joyful that many prefer to do it themselves.
Nowruz Main Dish
Most Iranians eat Sabzipolo Maahi for the first lunch of the new year. It’s a tasty dish of herbs rice with fish. If you travel to Iran during the Nowruz holidays, trying this meal must be on your Nowruz bucket list!
Countries that celebrate Nowruz
As mentioned above, Nowruz is not specific to Iranians. People of other countries such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan celebrate the spring and the Persian New Year too. Generally speaking, most of the Central Asian countries that used to be part of the ancient Persian Empire celebrate the Persian New Year.
Nowruz is coming!
As the last week of the year is coming to an end, we’re getting close to Nowruz and its lovely traditions. If you are interested to join a Persian New Year celebration in Iran, contact us at Land of Turquoise Domes and plan an itinerary for next year’s Nowruz.