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Nowruz

For other uses, see Nowruz (disambiguation).
Nowruz
نوروز
7SEEN 89.jpg
Table set with Haft-Seen Iranian ceremony items
Also called Albanian: Novruzit
Azerbaijani: Novruz
Dari: نوروزNauruz
Georgian: ნავრუზი Navruzi
Gujarati: નવરોઝ Navarōjha
Kazakh: Наурыз Nawryz
Kurdish: نەورۆزNewroz
Kyrgyz: Нооруз Nooruz
Ossetian: Новруз Novruz
Pashto: نوروزNawróz
Tajik: Наврӯз Navrūz
Tati: Nuruz
Turkish: Nevruz
Uzbek: Navruz
Turkmen: Nevruz
Observed by

 Iran
 Afghanistan
 Albania[1][2]
 Azerbaijan
 China[3] (by Tajiks and Turkic peoples)
 Georgia[4]
 India[5] (by Parsis)
 Iraq (by Kurds and Turkmens)[6]
 Kazakhstan[7]
 Kyrgyzstan[7]
 Pakistan (by Pashtuns and Balochs) [8]
 Russia[9]
 Syria[10][11] (by Kurds)
 Tajikistan[12]
 Turkey
(by Azerbaijanis, Kurds and Yörüks[13])[14]
 Turkmenistan[15]
 Uzbekistan

Type New Year, national, ethnic, international
Significance New Year holiday
Celebrations Haft-Seen, Charshanbe Suri, Sizdebedar, etc.
Date March 20, 21, or 22
2016 date Sunday 20 March 2016
at 04:30 UTC *
2017 date Monday 20 March 2017
at 10:29 UTC *
2018 date Tuesday 20 March 2018
at 16:15 UTC *
2019 date Wednesday 20 March 2019
at 21:58 UTC *
Frequency annual
Norooz, Nawrouz, Newroz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz
Country Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
Reference 1161
Region Asia and the Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 2016 (4th session)

Nowruz (Persian: نوروز‎‎ Nowruz; [nouˈɾuːz]; literally "New Day") is the name of the Iranian New Year,[30][31] also known as the Persian New Year,[32][33] which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranians and Turkic peoples, 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.[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42] It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar.[43]

Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually occurs on 21 March 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.[44]

Etymology

The term Nowruz is a Persian compound word, consisting of the words now and ruz. Now (Old Persian: nava), which means "new" and descends from Proto-Indo-European *néṷos, is cognate with English new, German neu, Latin novus, Russian novyj and Sanskrit náva. Ruz (Middle Persian: rōz, rōj; Avestan: raocah), which means "day" in Modern Persian, is descended from Proto-Iranian *raučah-, itself derived from Proto-Indo-European *leṷk-. The original meaning of the word, however, was "light". It is related to Armenian loys, English light, Latin lux, Sanskrit rúci and Slovenian luč.[45][46]

Regional variations in pronunciation

The Persian pronunciation differs in the many dialects of the language. While the eastern dialects have preserved the diphthong nau (IPA: [næuˈɾoːz]), the western dialects usually pronounce it with the diphthong now (IPA: [nouˈɾuːz]), and some colloquial variants (such as the Tehrani accent) pronounce it with a long monophthong (IPA: [noːˈɾuːz]).

Spelling variations

A variety of spelling variations for the word Nowruz exist in English-language usage. Random House (unabridged) provides the spelling Nowruz.[47]

Merriam-Webster (2006) recognizes only the spelling "Nauruz" (and a contestant in the final session of the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States, Allion Salvador, was disqualified on that basis).[48][49][50][51]

History and origin

Ancient roots

Although it is not clear whether Proto-Indo-Iranians celebrated a feast as the first day of the calendar, there are indications that Iranians may have observed the beginning of both autumn and spring, respectively related to the harvest and the sowing of seeds, for the celebration of the New Year.[52] Mary Boyce and Frantz Grenet explain the traditions for seasonal festivals and comment: "It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Iranians to develop their own spring festival into an established New Year feast, with the name Navasarda "New Year" (a name which, though first attested through Middle Persian derivatives, is attributed to the Achaemenian period)." Since the communal observations of the ancient Iranians appear in general to have been a seasonal ones, and related to agriculture, "it is probable that they traditionally held festivals in both autumn and spring, to mark the major turning points of the natural year."[52]

Nowruz is partly rooted in the tradition of Iranian religions, such as Mitraism and Zoroastrianism. In Mitraism, festivals had a deep linkage with the sun's light. The Iranian festivals such as Mehrgan (autumnal equinox), Tirgan, and the eve of Chelle ye Zemestan (winter solstice) also had an origin in the Sun god (Surya). Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion that emphasizes broad concepts such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Iran. In Zoroastrianism, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the six Gahambar festivals and Nowruz, which occurs at the spring equinox. According to Mary Boyce,[53] "It seems a reasonable surmise that Nowruz, the holiest of them all, with deep doctrinal significance, was founded by Zoroaster himself"; although there is no clear date of origin.[54] Between sunset on the day of the sixth Gahambar and sunrise of Nowruz, Hamaspathmaedaya (later known, in its extended form, as Frawardinegan; and today known as Farvardigan) was celebrated. This and the Gahambars are the only festivals named in the surviving text of the Avesta.

The 10th-century scholar Biruni, in his work Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa'il Sina'at al-Tanjim, provides a description of the calendars of various nations. Besides the Iranian calendar, various festivals of Greeks, Jews, Arabs, Sabians, and other nations are mentioned in the book. In the section on the Iranian calendar, he mentions Nowruz, Sadeh, Tirgan, Mehrgan, the six Gahambars, Farvardigan, Bahmanja, Esfand Armaz and several other festivals. According to him, "It is the belief of the Iranians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion."[55] The Persian historian Gardizi, in his work titled Zayn al-Akhbār, under the section of the Zoroastrians festivals, mentions Nowruz (among other festivals) and specifically points out that Zoroaster highly emphasized the celebration of Nowruz and Mehrgan.[56][57]

Achaemenid period

A bas-relief at the Apadana, Persepolis, depicting Armenians bringing their famous wine to the king.

It has been suggested that the famous Persepolis complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and the Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating a feast related to Nowruz. Although there may be no mention of the term Nowruz in recorded Achaemenid inscriptions,[58] there is a detailed account by Xenophon of a Nowruz celebration taking place in Persepolis and the continuity of this festival in the Achaemenid tradition.[59] It was an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 550–330 BCE), where kings from different nations under the Achaemenid Empire used to bring gifts to the King of Kings of Iran. The significance of the ceremony in the Achaemenid Empire was such that King Cambyses II's appointment as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the referred annual Achaemenid festival.[60] It was, therefore, a highly auspicious occasion for the ancient Iranian peoples.

In 539 BC, the Jews came under Iranian rule, thus exposing both groups to each other's customs. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther is adapted from an Iranian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens, suggesting that Purim may be a transformation of the Iranian New Year.[61] A specific novella is not identified and Encyclopædia Britannica itself notes that "no Jewish texts of this genre from the Persian period are extant, so these new elements can be recognized only inferentially". The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics notes that the Purim holiday is based on a lunar calendar, while Nowruz occurs at the spring equinox (solar calendar). The two holidays are therefore celebrated on different dates but within a few weeks of each other, depending on the year. Given their temporal associations, it is possible that the Jews and Iranians of the time may have shared or adopted similar customs for these holidays.[62] The story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther has been dated around 625–465 BC (although the story takes place with the Jews under the rule of the Achaemenid Empire and the Jews had come under Iranian rule in 539 BC), while Nowruz is thought to have first been celebrated between 555–330 BC. It remains unclear which holiday was established first.

Arsacid and Sassanid periods

Nowruz was the holiday of Arsacid dynastic empires who ruled Iran (248–224 CE) and the other areas ruled by the Arsacid dynasties outside of Parthia (such as the Arsacid dynasties of Armenia and Iberia). There are specific references to the celebration of Nowruz during the reign of Vologases I (51–78 CE), but these include no details.[58] Before Sassanids established their power in Western Asia around 300 CE, Parthians celebrated Nowruz in autumn, and the first of Farvardin began at the autumn equinox. During the reign of the Parthian dynasty, the spring festival was Mehrgan, a Zoroastrian and Iranian festival celebrated in honor of Mithra.[63]

Extensive records on the celebration of Nowruz appear following the accession of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE). Under the Sassanid emperors, Nowruz was celebrated as the most important day of the year. Most royal traditions of Nowruz, such as royal audiences with the public, cash gifts, and the pardoning of prisoners, were established during the Sassanid era and persisted unchanged until modern times.

After the Muslim conquest

Nowruz, along with Sadeh (celebrated in mid-winter), survived in society after the Muslim conquest of Iran in 650 CE. Other celebrations such the Gahambars and Mehrgan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians who carried them. It was adopted as the main royal holiday during the Abbasid period.

In the book Nowruznama ("Book of the New Year", which is attributed to Omar Khayyam,[64] a well known Persian poet and mathematician), a vivid description of the celebration in the courts of the kings of Iran is provided:[65] "From the era of Kai Khosrow till the days of Yazdegard, last of the pre-Islamic kings of Iran, the royal custom was thus: on the first day of the New Year, Now Ruz, the king's first visitor was the High Mobad of the Zoroastrians, who brought with him as gifts a golden goblet full of wine, a ring, some gold coins, a fistful of green sprigs of wheat, a sword, and a bow. In the language of Iran, he would then glorify God and praise the monarch. This was the address of the High Mobad to the king: "O Majesty, on this feast of the equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the faith of the ancient ones; may Sraosha, the angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestures and the exercise of justice and righteousness. May thy soul flourish; may thy youth be as the new-grown grain; may thy horse be puissant, victorious; thy sword bright and deadly against foes; thy hawk swift against its prey; thy every act straight as the arrow's shaft. Go forth from thy rich throne, conquer new lands. Honor the craftsman and the sage in equal degree; disdain the acquisition of wealth. May thy house prosper and thy life be long!"

Following the demise of the caliphate and the subsequent re-emergence of Iranian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Nowruz was elevated to an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sassanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the caliphate. According to the Syrian historian Yaqut al-Hamawi, the Iranian Buyid ruler ʿAżod-od-Dawla (r. 949-83) customarily welcomed Nowruz in a majestic hall, wherein servants had placed gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers.[66] The King would sit on the royal throne (masnad), and the court astronomer came forward, kissed the ground, and congratulated him on the arrival of the New Year.[66] The king would then summon musicians and singers, and invited his boon companions. They would gather in their assigned places and enjoy a great festive occasion.[66]

Even the Turkic and Mongol invaders did not attempt to abolish Nowruz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Nowruz remained as the main celebration in Iranian lands by both the officials and the people.

Contemporary era

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran was the only country that officially observed the ceremonies of Nowruz. When the Caucasian and Central Asian countries gained independence from the Soviets, they also declared Nowruz as a national holiday.

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.[67][68] 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.[69][70][71][72][73] 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.[74]

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.[75]

Locality

The festival of Nowruz is celebrated by many groups of people in the Black Sea basin, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Western Asia, central and southern Asia, and by Iranians worldwide.[76]

Countries that have Nowruz as a public holiday include:

The Canadian parliament, on 30 March 2009, by unanimous consent, passed a bill to add Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada.[87][88]

Nowruz is celebrated by Kurdish people in Iraq[6][89] and Turkey,[90] as well as by the Parsis in the Indian subcontinent.

It is also taken place by Iranian communities in several regions in Europe and the Americas, including Los Angeles, Toronto, Cologne and London.[91] But because Los Angeles is prone to devastating fires, there are very strict fire codes in the city. No fires are allowed even on one's own property. Usually, Iranians living in Southern California go to the beaches to celebrate the event where it is permissible to build fires.[92] On 15 March 2010, the House of Representatives of the United States passed the Nowruz Resolution (H.Res. 267), by a 384–2 vote,[93] "Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz, ... ."[94]

Iran

Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran, marking the official New Year of the country. It is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar. In Iran, families celebrate the New Year since the exact time of the March equinox, which is calculated every year.

In Iran, following the 1979 Revolution, some elements from the government have attempted to suppress Nowruz with very little success. These considered Nowruz a pagan holiday and a distraction from Islamic holidays.[95]

Azerbaijan

Main article: Novruz in Azerbaijan

After Iran, the Republic of Azerbaijan hosts the greatest number of public holidays related to Nowruz, with a total of seven days.[78]

In Azerbaijan, the holiday goes on for several days and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk bands, as well as the contests of national sports. In rural areas, crop holidays are also marked.[96]

The Azeri diaspora has communal associations that organize Nowruz celebrations in the US and Canada and in Israel

Afghanistan

Main article: Nowruz in Afghanistan

Nauruz is celebrated widely in Afghanistan. Also known as the Farmer's Day, the observances usually last two weeks, culminating on the first day of the Afghan New Year, on March 21.[24] During the Taliban rule (1996–2001), Nauruz was banned and considered "an ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship".[97]

Albania

In Albania, the day of Sultan Nevruzit is celebrated as a mainly mystical day by the Bektashi sect. There are special ceremonies in the Tekke, led by the clergy, and large meals are served there. They celebrate this day as the birthday of Ali.

Alongside the religious celebration, all Albanians celebrate a secular version of Nowruz, which is referred to as the Spring Day (Albanian: Dita e Verës).

Armenia

Since the extinction during the 19th century, Nowruz is not celebrated by Armenians and is not a public holiday in Armenia. However, it is celebrated in Armenia by tens of thousands of Iranian tourists who visit Armenia with relative ease.[98] The influx of tourists from Iran accelerated since around 2010–11.[99][100] In 2010 alone, around 27,600 Iranians spent Nowruz in capital Yerevan.[101]

In 2015, President Serzh Sargsyan sent a letter of congratulations to Kurds living in Armenia and to the Iranian political leadership on the occasion of Nowruz.[102]

China

Traditionally, Nowruz is celebrated mainly in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Uyghurs, Chinese Tajik, Salar, and Kazakh ethnicities.[3]

It's a tradition for people to plant trees, dredge irrigation canals, clean houses and prepare scrumptious food for guests during the festival.[citation needed]

Georgia

Nowruz is not celebrated by Georgians (excluding those who live in Iran and Azerbaijan), but it has become a public holiday in Georgia since 2010. It is widely celebrated by the country's large Azerbaijani minority (~7% of the total population)[103] as well as by the Iranians living in Georgia.[103][104] Most Georgian Azerbaijanis live in Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, Shida Kartli, and Mtskheta-Mtianeti regions. In addition, there is also a large historical Azerbaijani community in the capital city of Tbilisi, thus marking these as the core regions of celebration in Georgia.[103] Every year, large festivities are held notably in the capital Tbilisi.[103] Georgian politicians have attended the festivities in the capital over the years, and have congratulated the Nowruz-observing ethnic groups and nationals in Georgia on the day of Nowruz.[105][106]

Kurds (Turkey and Syria)

Newroz in Istanbul, Turkey

Newroz (or Nevruz) is largely considered as a potent symbol of Kurdish identity in Turkey, even if there are some Turks (including Turkmens) celebrating the festival. The Kurds of Turkey celebrate this feast between 18th till 21 March. Kurds gather into fairgrounds mostly outside the cities to welcome spring. Women wear colored dresses and spangled head scarves and young men wave flags of green, yellow and red, the historic colors of Kurdish people. They hold this festival by lighting fire and dancing around it.[107] Newroz celebrations are usually organised by Kurdish cultural associations and pro-Kurdish political parties. Thus, the Democratic Society Party was a leading force in the organisation of the 2006 Newroz events throughout Turkey. In recent years, the Newroz celebration gathers around 1 million participants in Diyarbakır, the biggest city of the Kurdish dominated Southeastern Turkey. As the Kurdish Newroz celebrations in Turkey often are theater for political messages, the events are frequently criticized for being political rallies rather than cultural celebrations.

Until 2005, the Kurdish population of Turkey could not celebrate their New Year openly.[108] "Thousands of people have been detained in Turkey, as the authorities take action against suspected supporters of the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK.[109] The holiday is now official in Turkey after international pressure on the Turkish government to lift culture bans. Turkish government renamed the holiday Nevroz in 1995.[110] In the recent years, limitations on expressions of Kurdish national identity, including the usage of Kurdish in the public sphere, have been considerably relaxed.

On 21 March 2013, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan called for a ceasefire through a message that was released in Diyarbakır during the Newroz celebrations.[111]

In Syria, the Kurds dress up in their national dress and celebrate the New Year.[112] According to Human Rights Watch, the Kurds have had to struggle to celebrate Newroz, and in the past the celebration has led to violent oppression, leading to several deaths and mass arrests.[113] The government has stated that the Newroz celebrations will be tolerated as long as they do not become political demonstrations of the treatment of the Kurds.[114] During the Newroz celebrations in 2008, three Kurds were shot dead by Syrian security forces.[115] [116]

Kurds in the diaspora also celebrate the New Year; for example, Kurds in Australia celebrate Newroz, not only as the beginning of the new year, but also as the Kurdish National Day. The Kurds in Finland celebrate the new year as a way of demonstrating their support for the Kurdish cause.[117] Also in London, organizers estimated that 25000 people celebrated Newroz during March 2006.[118]

Pakistan

Nowruz celebrations are observed by some of the ethnic groups in Pakistan, such as the Pashtuns and Baloch people. It may last weeks,[citation needed] particularly in the states of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, from where the largest groups of Pakistan's Iranian-speaking people originate from (Pashtuns and Balochis respectively).

Parsis (Indian subcontinent)

The Parsi New Year is celebrated as Jamshed Navroz by the entire Parsi community across the world. The festival falls on the first day of the first month of the Fasli calendar, followed by the Parsis.[citation needed] This falls in the month of March, according to the Gregorian calendar. As the day commences with the advent of spring or the vernal equinox, Jamshed Navroz is celebrated with immense fun and fervor. Zoroastrian Parsis observe the festival by performing the rituals and rites with full devotion and duty. A particular sect of Parsis resides in the western part of India and hence, Jamshed Navroz celebrations can be prominently noticed in these regions.

Observances

House cleaning and shopping

Further information: Spring cleaning

House cleaning, or shaking the house (خانه تکانیxane tekāni) as referred to by Persian-speaking Iranians, is commonly observed before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their house and the purchase of new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well 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. This is also extended to personal attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes.

Parsis adorn their houses with different auspicious symbols; namely, stars, butterflies, birds and fish. They order and make new attires especially for the festival. On the day of Navroz, they dress in their new and best clothes and put on gold and silver kustis and caps. They decorate the doors and windows with garlands of roses and jasmines, and use color powders for creating patterns known as rangoli on the steps and thresholds. Fish and floral motifs are a favorite among rangolis and considered highly auspicious.[citation needed]

Festival of Charshanbe Suri

Main article: Charshanbe Suri

Charshanbe Suri (Persian: چارشنبه ‌سوری‎‎ – Čāršanbe Suri; Kurdish: Çarşema Sor‎; Azerbaijani: Çərşənbə Bayramı) is a prelude to the New Year. In Iran, it is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. It is usually celebrated in the evening, and is obtained by people making bonfires and jumping over them, as well as setting off fireworks and sparklers.

In Azerbaijan, where the preparation for Novruz usually begins a month earlier, the festival is held every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday of Novruz. Each Tuesday, people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind.[119] On the holiday eve, the graves of relatives are visited and tended.[120]

Iranians sing the traditional poetic quote zardi ye man az to, sorkhi ye to az man during the festival, which literally means "my yellow is yours, your red is mine"; meaning you want the fire to replace your pallor, sickness, and problems with warmth and energy. Trail mix and berries are also served during the celebration.

Spoon hitting (قاشق زنیqāšoq zani) is an Iranian tradition observed on the eve of Charshanbe Suri, which is similar to the Halloween custom Trick-or-treating. It is practiced by people wearing disguises and going door-to-door to bang spoons against plates or bowls and receive packaged snacks.

In Azerbaijan, according to old traditions, children slip around to their neighbors' homes and apartments on the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, knock at the doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds all the while hiding nearby waiting for candies, pastries and nuts.[119]

The ritual of jumping over fire has remained in Armenia in the feast of Trndez, which is a feast of purification in the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholic Churches, celebrated forty days after Jesus's birth.[121]

Among the Yazidis, this festival is celebrated on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April) which marks their New Year's Day.

Festivals of Gul-i-Surkh and Dehqān

In Afghanistan, the festival of Gul-i-Surkh (Dari: گل سرخ‎; "Red Flower," referring to red tulip flowers) is the principal festival for Nauruz. It is celebrated in Mazar-i-Sharif during the first 40 days of the year, when the tulip flowers grow in the green plains and over the hills surrounding the city. People from all over the country travel to Mazar-i-Sharif to attend the Nauruz festivals. Various activities and customs are performed during the Gul-i-Surkh festival, including:

The festival of Dehqān (Dari: دهقان‎; "Farmer") is celebrated on the first day of the New Year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. In recent years, this activity is being performed only in Kabul and other major cities of Afghanistan, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate for watching and observing.

The citizens of Kabul go to Istalif, Charikar or other green places around where the Cercis flowers grow. They go for picnic with their families during the first two weeks of the New Year.

Decorative tables

Haft Seen

Main article: Haft Seen

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:

These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun and Moon.[citation needed]

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,[123] 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.

Haft Mewa

In Afghanistan, people prepare Haft Mewa (Dari: هفت میوه‎ – Haft Mēwa; literally "the Seven Fruits") for the New Year's Day. It is similar to a fruit salad, and is made from seven different dried fruits served in their own syrup.

The seven dried fruits prepared for the Haft Mewa setting include:

Khoncha

In Azerbaijan, the decoration of the festive table is called Khoncha (Azerbaijani: Xonça). It consists of a big silver or copper tray, with Samani placed in the center, as well as candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it.

The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.[119]

Traditional heralds

Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz

Main articles: Amu Nowruz and Hajji Firuz
Haji Firuz performers on a road to Tehran.

In Iran, the traditional heralds of the festival of Nowruz are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz, who appear annually in the streets to celebrate the New Year.

Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his Christian counterpart Santa Claus.[124] He is the husband of Nane Sarma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can meet each other only once a year.[125][126] He is characterized as an elderly silver-haired man who puts on a felt hat, and has a walking stick, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, a pair of thin-soled giveh, and a pair of linen trousers.[127]

Haji Firuz, a blackface character clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people who he refers to as his lords. As a blackface serf, it is a controversial character, seen as symbolically racist.[128] Therefore, half of his face is sometimes painted white in order to prevent the criticisms.

Kampirak

In the folklore of Afghanistan, Kampirak and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people. He is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature yielding the forces of winter. The tradition is observed in central provinces, specially Bamyan and Daykundi.[129]

Visiting one another

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, the youth will visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later.

In Iran, the visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on the list. A typical visit is lesser than 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time.

Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items with tea and other beverages. 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.

Sizdebedar

Main article: Sizdebedar

In Iran, the Nowruz holidays last thirteen days. On the thirteenth day of the New Year, Iranians leave their houses to join nature and picnic outdoors, as part of the Sizdebedar ceremony.

On the day of Sizdebedar, the greenery grown for the Haft Seen setting is thrown away, particularly into a running water. It is also customary for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the leaves of the greenery before discarding it, expressing a wish to find a partner.

Another custom associated with Sizdebedar is Lie of the Thirteen, which is the process of lying to someone and making them believe it.[130][131][132] It has been directly borrowed from April Fools' Day, and has become in vogue in Iran due to its coincidence with the day of the celebration of Sizdebedar.

Cuisine

Desserts and snacks

Dishes

Mythology

Bas-relief in Persepolis, depicting a symbol in Zoroastrianism for Nowruz.[note 1]

There exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology.

The Shahnameh dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature.[134] Jamshid, the mythical Iranian king, perhaps symbolizes the transition of the Proto-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry and a more settled life in human history.[citation needed] In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, he is credited with the foundation of Nowruz. The book reads that Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world's creatures gathered in wonder about him and the scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day (Now Ruz). This was the first day of Farvardin, which is the first month of the Iranian calendar.[135]

Astronomy

Main article: March equinox
Illumination of Earth by the Sun on the day of an equinox.

The first day of the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 21 March. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator. Sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.

In around the 11th century CE, major reforms of the Iranian calendars took place and whose principal purpose were to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowruz, at the vernal equinox. Accordingly, the definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Tusi was the following: "the first day of the official New Year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon."[136]

Calendar

Nowruz is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar.

In the Fasli/Bastani variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, Navroz is always the day of the vernal equinox (nominally falling on March 21).

In the Shahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year's Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. These latter two variants of the calendar, which are only followed by the Zoroastrians of Pakistan and India, celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year's Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti "(day) of penitence" (from patet "confession," hence also repentance and penitence).[citation needed]

Nowruz in religions

Apart from Zoroastrianism,[137] Nowruz has been entered into the contexts of some other religions and faiths.

There exist narrations in the Shia literature about the merits of the day of Nowruz, including that the Day of Ghadir was on that day, and also the recommendation to fast on the day of Nowruz, the latter appearing in the fatwas of major Shia scholars.[138]

Nowruz is also a holy day for Sufis, Bektashis, Ismailis, Alawites,[139] Alevis, Babis and adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.[140]

Bahá'í Faith

Main article: Bahá'í Naw-Rúz

Naw-Rúz is one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith worldwide. It is the first day of the Bahá'í calendar, occurring on the vernal equinox around March 21.[141] The Bahá'í calendar is composed of 19 months, each of 19 days,[142] and each of the months is named after an attribute of God; similarly each of the nineteen days in the month also are named after an attribute of God.[142] The first day and the first month were given the attribute of Bahá, an Arabic word meaning splendour or glory, and thus the first day of the year was the day of Bahá in the month of Bahá.[141][143] Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, explained that Naw-Rúz was associated with the Most Great Name of God,[141][143] and was instituted as a festival for those who observed the Nineteen day fast.[144][145]

The day is also used to symbolize the renewal of time in each religious dispensation.[146] `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son and successor, explained that significance of Naw-Rúz in terms of spring and the new life it brings.[141] He explained that the equinox is a symbol of the messengers of God and the message that they proclaim is like a spiritual springtime, and that Naw-Rúz is used to commemorate it.[147]

As with all Bahá'í holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Rúz, and Bahá'ís all over the world celebrate it as a festive day, according to local custom.[141] Persian Bahá'ís still observe many of the Iranian customs associated with Nowruz such as the Haft Seen, but American Bahá'í communities, for example, may have a potluck dinner, along with prayers and readings from Bahá'í scripture.

Twelver Shia faith and Shia Ismaili faith

Along with Ismailis,[148][149] Alawites and Alevis, the Twelver Shia also hold the day of Nowruz in high regard.

It has been said that Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shia imam, has explained Nowruz and said: "In Nowruz God made a covenant with His servants to worship Him and not to allow any partner for Him. To welcome, His messengers and obey their rulings. This day is the first day that the fertile wind blow and the flowers on the earth appeared. The archangel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet, and it is the day that Abraham broke the idols. The day Prophet Muhammad held Ali on his shoulders to destroy the Quraishie's idols in the house of God, the Kaaba."[150]

The day upon which Nowruz falls has been recommended as a day of fasting for Twelver Shia Muslims by Shia scholars, including Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, Ruhollah Khomeini[151] and Ali al-Sistani.[152] The day also assumes special significance for Shias as it has been said that it was on 21 March 656 AD that the first Shia Imam, Ali, assumed the office of caliphate.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Eternally fighting bull (personifying the moon), and a lion (personifying the sun) representing the spring.

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