As Norooz or the Persian New Year is the most important national holiday of Iran, the preparations and rituals associated with it have also been embedded in Iranian culture for thousands of years. Sofreh Haft Seen, which is an essential part of Norooz celebration, literally means a spread of seven S. A spread gathered from special symbolic items each representing an important aspect of life and seven of them start with the letter S or Seen in Farsi.
Iranians start preparing for their Haft Seen spread with love and excitement a month before the New Year and beautifully assemble and decorate it a few days before. At the count down of the Norooz or the Sal Tahvil moment, families gather and sit together around their Haft Seen spread while quietly contemplating, praying and making resolutions for the New Year to come right before staring the festive celebration of the new year with music, hugs, kisses and gift exchanges.
Preparing for their Haft Seen Iranians sprout their Sabzeh. They soak to grow grains like wheat and lentils to represent rebirth and growth. Sabzeh is present on Haft Seen and kept till the 13th day of Norooz. A clove of Garlic or Sir is set on the table to assemble health and medicine. A red apple or Sib sits on the spread to portray health and Beauty. Serkeh or vinegar demonstrates age and patience. Sekkeh or gold coins stand as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Samanou that is a rich and sweet meal represents affluence and opulence while Sumac romantically depicts the color of sunrise for a new beginning and the light wiping out the evil and darkness. Senjed that is a special berry symbolizes love.
There are some other essential elements placed on the Haft Seen that do not start with the letter S in Farsi. Gold Fish are placed in a fish bowl to represent life and candles are lit to inspire enlightenment. A holly Book, usually Quran or others depending on the family’s faith, is placed on the spread as a sign of God’s presence and protection. Some prefer to replace or complement the holly book with the book of Poetries of Hafez or Shahname. A mirror is placed on the Haft Seen as a symbol of self-reflection and colored eggs symbolize fertility.
Right before the moment of Tahvil all Persians joyously wear their new beautiful clothes, groom themselves to look their best and happily sit around the Haft Seen with their family for a very emotionally charged moment of ending one year and starting a new one.