Norouz and associated festivities

Hope you are having a beautiful weekend my lovely readers. I’m so excited to be writing this post because it’s such a special time of the year for us Persians and I’ll tell you why…. we are in preparation for the Persian new year 🙂

I’ll be discussing everything “Norouz”, so by the end of this post you’ll be well informed. Just FYI this post will be long so make yourself comfy 😉

“Norouz/Norooz” which literally means “New Day” is the name given to the Iranian new year. It marks the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere aka the Spring Equinox and is THE most important and cherished event in the Iranian calendar. Fun fact; we Persians have been celebrating it for thousands of years…dating all the way back to the Sassanid period (the last imperial dynasty before the rise of Islam).

There are three main stages that are associated with Norouz. The first is “Charshanbeh Suri” which occurs on the last Wednesday of the year before the first day of Spring. Then there is the “Tahvil-e-Sal” which is the exact time on the first day of Spring (Norouz) when the old year ends and the new one begins. Finally there is “Sizdah Bedar”which is the thirteenth day post Norouz and marks the culmination of Norouz.

Charshanbeh Suri 

Also termed the festival of fire, Charshanbeh Suri is the prelude to Norouz and is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. The name of this festival consists of the word Charshanbeh which means Wednesday in Farsi and Sur which is a synonym of Sorkh that means red. The colour red symbolises good health and it’s an ancient belief that the fire has healing qualities. The festival usually starts in the evening, with people making bonfires in the streets and jumping over them. This is a very ancient ritual and signifies purification i.e. getting rid of all the evil juju of the year that is about to end. Whilst jumping over the fire, one must chant the phrase “Zardi ye man as to, Sorkhi ye to az man” which translates to “my yellowness to you and your redness to me”!!

As always this festival is also marked by eating, on this night people tend to eat “Ajil” (mixed nuts and dried fruit) amongst other things like “Ash” which is a hearty noodle soup. Another associated ritual is the throwing out of the single daughters from the house. This is performed so that the following year they will be married. It’s usually performed by the parents or elders using a broom….needless to say that this ritual has happened to me for many years!!

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Some bonfire jumping courtesy of Google images and my indoor attempt below :p

 

 

 

Norouz

The main event itself, usually falls around March 21st and as mentioned before signifies the first day of Spring. There are a lot of things involved for the preparation of Norouz; spring cleaning, preparing “Sofreh Haftsin” buying gifts aka “eidy” and preparing for “Tahvil-e-Sal”. It ain’t Persian New year without “Haftsin”; this is the official spread for the Norouz period.  “Haft” means 7 and “sin” are  words starting with the letter S or “Seen” in Farsi. These seven items signify numerous things like health, prosperity, love, fertility etc

The main items on the Haftsin usually include the following:

  • Sabzeh- sprouts of either wheat,barely or lentils grown on a dish prior to Norouz (symbolising rebirth)
  • Samanu- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ that somehow symbolises affluence
  • Senjed- A special dried wild Olive fruit which symbolises Love
  • Seeb- Apple to symbolise health
  • Seer- Garlic, also to symbolise health
  • Somqh/Sumac- A spice used in Iran, symbolising sunrise
  • Serkeh- vinegar, symbolising old age and patients

The following items also may appear on the spread although they don’t necessarily start with the letter S:

  • Goldfish in a bowl (representing life)
  • Mirror (signifying light)
  • Flowers, in particular Hyacinth (symbolising Spring)
  • lamps (also signifies light)
  • Quran
  • Coins (symbolising wealth)
  • Divan-e- Hafez (Poetry collection of Hafez)
  • Painted eggs to symbolise fertility

Below are some Haftsin spreads from previous years 🙂

 

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And an example of a more traditional spread

 

Once the house is spotless and the Haftsin is prepared the only thing that remains is the “Sal Tahvil” or “year exchange”. This is the exact hour that the old year ends and the new one begins and signifies the official commencement of Norouz. During this time families are gathered around the Haftsin and exchange gifts or “eidys” which usually tend to be money! People buy new clothes to wear for Norouz and usually spend most of the day going to other relatives or friends places to exchange gifts and spend time together. The Norouz period is a busy time because it is a national holiday, most people take the 13 days off work and schools are closed.

Another thing that’s associated with Norouz is a fictional character called “Haji Firooz” who’s face is covered in soot , he wears bright red clothes and dances through the streets playing a tambourine to bring in the new year celebrations.

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Here is the Haji, not quite Santa but still very jolly!

 

Sizdah Bedar

So we made it to the final chapter! Sizdah bedar falls on the thirteenth day of Farvardin; the name of the first month of Spring in the Iranian calendar which is the thirteenth day of Norouz. It is celebrated by leaving the house and going on a picnic. The reason for being outdoors is so you don’t get jinxed by the number 13!

A ritual for this day is to take your sprout from the Haftsin spread and throw it in a body of water. Also it is customary for the single people, especially females to knot the sprouts before discarding it in hopes of finding a partner. Guess who’s done that a few times ;p

This day pretty much signifies the end of Norouz, the items of the Haftsin are put away or thrown out if perishable and things return to normal.

I’m sure you are now all Norouz’d out so hope you enjoyed this post. Wishing all my Persian peeps out there a very happy Norouz. May it be filled with health and hapiness, hope you all get a decent eidy 😉

Till next time Xx