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Persians and other Iranian groups (Kurds, Azerbaijanis and Baluchis) start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the New Year and the purchase of flowers (in particular the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous).

In association with the "rebirth of nature", extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed by almost every household in Iran. On the New Year's Day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting their families and friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors.

During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to visit one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbors) in the form of short house visits, which are usually reciprocated. Typically, on the first day of Nowruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the youth will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Many Iranians will throw large Nowruz parties in a central location as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.

Some Nowruz celebrants believe that whatever a person does on Nowruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Nowruz, then the new year will be a good one.

The night before the last Wednesday of the year is celebrated by Iranians as Chahārshanbe Suri , the Iranian festival of fire. This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad); the symbolism behind the rituals are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism.

The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardi-ye man az (ane) to, sorkhi-ye to az (ane) man. The fire is believed to burn out all the fear in their spirit, in preparation for new year.

Serving different kinds of pastry and is the Chahārshanbe Suri way of giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness. According to tradition, the living are visited by the spirit of their ancestors on the last days of the year, and many children wrap themselves in shrouds, symbolically re-enacting the visits. They also run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons and knocking on doors to ask for treats. There are several other traditions on this night, including: the rituals of Kūze Shekastan, the breaking of earthen jars which symbolically hold one's bad fortune; and the ritual of Gereh-goshā’ī, making a knot in the corner of a handkerchief or garment and asking the first passerby to unravel it in order to remove ones misfortune.

The haft sin table includes seven items starting with the letter 'S' or Sīn in the Persian alphabet. The custom and the traditional practice of Haft Sin has been changed over the past millenium. The term was initially referred to as Haft Chin. The word Haft Chin is derived from the word Chin meaning "to place" and Haft, the number 7. The items originally represented seven of the Zoroastrian yazatas or divinities including ātar and asmān. The invasion of Sassanid Persia by the Umayyad Caliphate in 650 brought acculturation and cultural transformation to the local Persians. This subsequently forced the local population to adapt and replace many Zoroastrian customs and words with Arabic and Islamic concepts.

Haft-Sin

The Haft Sīn items are:
sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience.

Other items on the table may include:
Sonbol - Hyacinth (plant)
Sekkeh - Coins - representative of wealth
traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
Aajeel - dried nuts, berries and raisins
lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving). As an essential object of the Nowruz table, this goldfish is also "very ancient and meaningful" and with Zoroastrian connection.
rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
the national colours, for a patriotic touch
a holy book (e.g., the Avesta, Qur'an,or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz)

Hāji Firuz

The traditional herald of the Nowruz season is a man called Hājī Firuz (or Khwāja Piruz). He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year.

His face is painted black (black is an ancient Persian symbol of good luck) and wears a red costume. Then he sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and heralds the coming of the New Year.

Sizdah Bedar

The thirteenth day of the New Year festival is Sizdah Bedar (literally meaning "passing the thirteenth day", figuratively meaning "Passing the bad luck of the thirteenth day"). This is a day of festivity in the open, often accompanied by music and dancing, usually at family picnics.

Sizdah bedar celebrations stem from the ancient Persians' belief that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years at the end of which the sky and earth collapsed in chaos. Hence Nowruz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.

At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen (which has symbolically collected all sickness and bad luck) is thrown into running water to exorcise the demons (divs) from the household. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh before discarding it, so expressing a wish to be married before the next year's Sizdah Bedar. Another tradition associated with this day is Dorugh-e Sizdah, literally meaning "the lie of the thirteenth", which is the process of lying to someone and making them believe it (similar to April Fools Day).

by Maryam Rahmanian - Iran << Previous Next >>

A General view shows a packed stadium as two groups of wrestlers perform traditional wrestling match in the Zaynalkhan, Esfarayen 772KM Northeast of Tehran on April 2,2012.In this traditional competition, participants wear a traditional costume called Chookheh, and the competition is held in the open air. Chookheh game has gained more popularity in recent years.The game usually take place on the 13th and 14th of the Iranian New Year.

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