(Photo by Tara Afshar)
Corona del Mar High School

Norooz: the Persian New Year

Spring is approaching, blossoms are abound, and nothing more apropos to welcome the spring vernal equinox than the Persian new year Norooz. The Persian new year ubiquitously known as “Norooz” (meaning new day) historically is a tradition that dates back to thousands of years ago. Around the first week of March, Iranians around the globe are bustling and getting ready to ring in the much awaited new year.

Many traditions are practiced and celebrated during this 13-day long new year celebration. On the last Wednesday of the Iranian calendar before Norooz, Chahar-Shanbeh-Soori is celebrated. Families gather and jump over fire, to ward off any negative and ill spirits that have been lingering throughout the year.

As Persians jump over the fires, they customarily shout out “Sorkheeyeh toh az man, zardeeyeh man az toh”, indirectly translating into your healthy nature is mine, and my poor health/pain is now yours. This tradition has been modified and still celebrated by Iranians around the world.

Another tradition that is diligently practiced by Iranians prior to the new year is a thorough deep cleaning of their homes, known as “khaneh tahkoonee” (shaking of the house), and buying new clothes for each family member to ring in the new year with new clothes. Once the house has been thoroughly cleaned, the preparations for the “Haft-Seen” table begin. A table or elevated platform is set, and it is usually covered with an elaborate artisanal handwoven cloth called “Termeh”.

Haft-Seen means seven S’s. There are seven items that are placed on the table that begin with the Farsi (the traditional language spoken by Iranians) alphabet “S”. Each “S” has a traditional significance and reason for being placed on the table; some of the items found on the Haft-Seen table are:

Seeb (apple): symbolizing beauty

Sonbol (hyacinth): symbolizing the arrival of spring

Seer (garlic): symbolizing health

Sekeh (gold coins): symbolizing wealth & prosperity

Somagh (Sumac): symbolizing the color of the sun

Samanoo (wheat germ sprout pudding: symbolizing affluence

Serkeh (vinegar): symbolizing wisdom and patience

Senjed (berries from Oleaster tree): symbolizing love

Sabzeh (wheat, barley, lentil sprouts): symbolizing rebirth

There are also other items placed on the Haft-Seen table such as painted eggs (symbolizing fertility), goldfish (representing Pisces, the zodiac symbol of the month of Farvardeen), a mirror to reflect light, candles (symbolizing enlightenment),the Holy Book of Koran or a book of poetry by Hafiz or Saadi, and most importantly a plateful of intricate traditional Persian pastries.

Norooz is celebrated on the first day of spring. Families gather together and feast on traditional dishes of fish, dill rice, and “kookoo” which is a chopped herb frittata. Music is played and families gather around the Haft-Seen table, candles are lit, as everyone hugs and kisses and wishes one another “saleh no mobaaraak” (happy new year).

In lieu of gifts, money or gold coins referred to as “Aidee” are given to children. The celebrations continue for thirteen days, as families visit their elders and other family members to wish them all a happy new year and pay their respects.

On the 13th day of the festivities, families have picnics outside referred to as “Seizdeh Bedar” loosely translating to spending out the 13th (as superstitiously thirteen signifies bad luck), and having a communal picnic on the thirteenth day was traditionally a means of warding off bad luck.

Norooz is an old traditional holiday celebrated by Iranians of all faiths, as it is not a religious fete, but rather an annual celebration of spring, and the beginning of a new year in the Iranian calendar. This year Norooz will  be celebrated around the globe at precisely 2:37:28 am Los Angeles time on Saturday, March 20.