Happy Nowruz! Everything You Need to Know About the Persian New Year

Nowruz is a compound word that blends together the Persian words “now” which means “new,” and “ruz” which means “day.” It is both the celebration of the New Year and the first day of spring!

Although the celebration is about the first day of the year, people prepare for weeks in advance and celebrate for 13 days.  Houses are cleaned, wardrobes are changed, family and friends are gathered, and meals are served.  Considered the happiest holiday of the year, the New Year’s day must begin with joy and laughter so that during the rest of the year the families will continue to be happy and live a year full of abundance and blessings. 

During celebration one may cross Haji Firooz, the traditional herald of the Nowruz season.  Wearing black make-up and a red costume, Haji Firooz is related to spreading good cheer. With tambourines and trumpets, his comical dances and songs gladden houses, streets and market places.

About the “Haft Seen”

“Haft Seen” literally means the seven S’. One of the traditional rituals of Nowruz is the setting of a table with seven symbolistic items that in Farsi begin with the letter “S.”

  1.     Sabzeh (lentil or wheat sprouts that grow in a dish, symbolizing rebirth and renewal)
  2.     Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat, symbolizing wealth and fertility)
  3.     Senjed (dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love)
  4.     Seer (garlic, symbolizing medicine and taking care of oneself)
  5.     Seeb (apple, symbolizing health and beauty)
  6.     Somaq (sumac berries, symbolizing the sunrise of a new day)
  7.     Serkeh (vinegar, symbolizing the patience and wisdom that comes with aging)

Also on the “Haft-Seen,” many people decorate eggs for good luck and fertility. There may also be a goldfish in a bowl to represent new beginnings, a mirror to always look at your reflection, coins (Sekkeh, in Farsi) to bring prosperity, candles for happiness, and a book either sacred or of poetry.

Traditional Food for Nowruz

So many delicious meals are prepared for this event, but one of the most popular is Sabzi polo ba mahi. As its meaning, it is a green-herbed rice with fish. One represents the rebirth and the other the life, so enjoying such a plate is thought to bring good luck.

The Asheh Reshteh is a soup made from thick noodles. The noodles are symbolic, as the waves and knots made by the noodles represent the multitude of possibilities of one’s life. The untangling of the noodles is said to bring good luck and fortune.

The Kookoo Sabzi is a green omelette that can be eaten hot or cold and often brought to a Sizdeh Bedar picnic on the 13th, and last, days of the Nowruz celebrations.

Sizdeh Bedar literally means “getting rid of the thirteenth.” Families throw green sprouts into rivers or lakes to symbolize the plant’s return to nature and conclude the festivities until the next year.

Nowruz represents freshness and renewal. It is the celebration of the possibility of new life, of being able to wipe away the dust and sadness of the old in order to start new and better. So seize the day as a fresh start and Nowruz Mubarak!