Nowruz (literally translated as “new day” in Farsi) is celebrated by over 75 million people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in lands that once belonged to the Persian Empire.
Here are a few expert tips to get you celebrating Nowruz like a pro.
1. Take a crash course on Zoroastrianism
Zoroastar is depicted in this painting of “The School of Athens.” (Photo via Wikipedia)
Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroastar, the leader of the religion and ancient philosophy of Zoroastrianism.
It emphasizes the broad concept and differences of “good” and “evil.” Believers should be connected to nature and animals, and always respect the element of fire.
2. Meet the Persian Santa Claus
Haji Firooz gives gifts to celebrators and covers his hands and face with soot. (Photo via Flickr by Sina S)
Haji Firouz, who is known as the “Santa Claus” of this holiday, has been referred to as the Zoroastrian fire keeper, as his face and hands are painted black to represent soot from the fire.
He wears a red cloak and a red felt hat, sings songs on new year and gives gifts to all the children and people who are celebrating. He plays his loud tambourine and sings traditional songs, bringing joyfulness to the Nowruz celebration.
3. Learn the new year greeting, “No-Rooz Mobarak!”
During this time of year, Iranians prepare for the occasion by cleaning their homes, getting ready for guests to come over and share the traditional meal of “sabzi-polo-mahi,” salmon and spinach rice.
Hosts greet their guests by kissing one another on the cheek in gratitude and give the new year greeting, “No-Rooz Mobarak!”
4. Jump over fire!
A child celebrates Chahārshanbe Suri by leaping over fire. (Photo via Flickr by Quinn Dombrowski)
On the last Wednesday of the year, Iranians celebrate Chahārshanbe Suri. People gather together in the streets and alleys to make bonfires and jump over them while singing the traditional songs.
Jumping over the fire is believed to be burning out all of your fear in your subconscious and spirit, in order to enter the new year brand new.
Traditionally on this night, many children also wrap themselves in cloaks, going door to door and banging spoons on pots and pans, asking for treats from the neighbors.
It is believed that the louder the children bang their spoons, the more they are beating out the last unlucky Wednesday of the New Year.
5. Know how to set your table
A traditional table is set for Nowruz, complete with the “Seven S’s,” gold fish, painted eggs and a mirror. (Photo via Flickr by Remy)
Iranians traditionally gather around a “Haft-Seen” (translated as Seven-S’s), which is the traditional table setting to bring in the new year and the new beginnings of spring.
It consists of seven items that in Farsi begin with the letter “S.”
Sabzeh (lentil sprouts that grow in a dish, symbolizing rebirth)
Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat, symbolizing affluence)
Senjed (dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love)
Seer (garlic, symbolizing medicine)
Seeb (apple, symbolizing health and beauty)
Somaq (sumac berries, symbolizing the color of the sunrise)
Serkeh (vinegar, symbolzing age and patience)
Also on the “Haft-Seen,” many people decorate eggs for good luck and fertility. There may also be a goldfish in a bowl to represent new beginnings and a mirror, to always look at your reflection.
6. Pick a book to complete your table
Iranians have been placing the “Shahnameh: The Epic of Persian Kings” at their Haft-Seen. This classic book was written over a thousand years ago by the great poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi, with over 50,000 verses of Persian history, mythological stories and heroic kings.
Originally, the book was written strictly in Farsi, in order to keep the stories and its language as pure as possible, and rarely translated to other languages.
In 2013, Ahmad Sadri’s version of the “Shahnameh” came to surface along with beautiful images by Hamid Rahmanian. Together they created an English translation of this epic book, creating more opportunities for non-Iranians to learn about Iranian history and culture.
7. Eat at a Persian restaurant
Iranians are extremely welcoming to others and love sharing cultural experiences. This is a great time of year to check out Persian cuisines.