Nowruz [nouˈɾuːz]; literally “new day” is the name of the Iranian New Year, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranians, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals.
Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
The UN’s General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In response to the UN recognition, Iran unveiled a postage stamp. The stamp was made public in the presence of the Iranian President during the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran on Saturday, 27 March 2010.
The second International Nowruz Celebrations were also held in Tehran in 2011. The 3rd International Nowruz Celebrations were held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 25, 2012 with Tajik President and his Iranian and Afghan counterparts in attendance. The next international ceremonies to celebrate Nowruz were scheduled to be hosted by Turkmenistan.
Haft Seen (Persian: هفت سین – Haft Sin); “Seven S’s”) is the traditional table setting of Nowruz in Iran. Typically, before the arrival of Nowruz, family members gather around a table, with the Haft Seen set on it, and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. At that time, the New Year gifts are exchanged.
The setting includes seven items starting with the letter S or seen (س) in the Perso-Arabic alphabet. The items include:
- Greenery (سبزه– sabze): Wheat, barley or lentil sprouts grown in a dish
- Samanu(سمنو – samanu): A sweet pudding made from germinated wheat
- The dried fruit of the oleastertree (سنجد – senjed)
- Garlic(سیر – sir)
- Apples(سیب – sib)
- Sumacberries (سماق – somāq)
- Vinegar(سرکه – serke)
These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun and Moon.
Other symbolic items which are usually set along the Haft Seen are candles, a mirror, decorating coins, and decorated eggs (sometimes one for each member of the family). A bowl of water with goldfish, a holy book (e.g. the Avesta or Quran) and/or a poetry book (e.g. the Divan of Hafez), and rose water are also included to the setting.
The custom and the traditional practice of Haft Seen has been changed over times. The initial term Haft Chin meaning “the seven collected”, has been gradually altered to the present-day name of the setting.