NOROUZ: The Iranian New Year Celebration ----------------------------------------
In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Iranian New Year Celebration, NOROUZ, always begins on the first day of Spring. The year changes on the Vernal Equinox or TAHVEEL which may occur on March 20, 21 or 22. It makes its arrival at the precise moment that the sun crosses the Equator. This celebration and its rituals go back to at least three thousand years ago. NOROUZ ceremonies are symbolic representation of the two ancient concepts, "END and the REBIRTH", and "GOOD and EVIL".
To this day, a few weeks before the new year, Iranians thoroughly clean and rearrange their homes. They make new clothes, bake pastries and germinate seeds as signs of renewal. The ceremonial cloth known as SOFREH-YE HAFT-SEEN is set up in each household.
Troubadours, referred to as HADJEE FEEROUZ, disguise themselves with makeup and wear brightly colored outfits of satin. The HADJEE FEEROUZ, singing and dancing parade as a carnival through the streets with tambourines, kettle drums and trumpets to spread good cheer and the news of the coming new year.
On the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, literally the eve of Red Wednesday or the eve of celebration, bonfires are lit in public places and people leap over the flames shouting "SORKHI-E TO AZMANO ZARDI-E MANAZTO", literally meaning "Give me your beautiful red color and take back my yellowish sickly pallor." With the help of fire and light, symbols of goodness, we hope to see our way through this unlucky night to the arrival of Spring's longer days.
In deed, Halloween is a Celtic variation of SHAB-E CHAAHAAR SHANBEH SOURY. In order to make wishes come true, it is customary to prepare special foods and distribute them on that night. A special snack called AJEEL-E CHAAHAAR SHANBEH SOURY or AAJEEL-E MOSHGEL GOSHA, the latter literally meaning unraveler of the difficulties, is made by mixing seven dried nuts and fruits.
A few days prior to the new year a special cover, called SOFREH-YE HAFT-SEEN, is spread out on a Persian carpet or on a table in every Iranian household. This ceremonial table consists of seven dishes, each one beginning with the letter "S" called "SEEN" (like letter "R" in English which is called "AAR"). The number seven has been sacred in Iran since ancient times and the seven dishes stand for seven angelic heralds of life - Rebirth, Health, Happiness, Prosperity, Joy, Patience and Beauty. The symbolic dishes consist of:
1- SABZEH: Sprout, grown lentil or wheat, representing rebirth.
2- SAMANOO: A pudding in which common wheat sprout are cooked, transformed and given a new life as a sweet and represents the ultimate sophistication of Iranian cooking.
3- SEEB: Apple, representing health and beauty.
4- SEER: Garlic, representing medicine.
5- SENJED: Sweet dry fruit of the Lotus tree representing love. It is said that when the Lotus tree is in full bloom, its fragrance and its fruit makes people fall in love.
6- SERKEH: Vinegar, representing age and patience.
7- SOMAAGH: Sumac berries, representing the color of the sun rise. With the appearance of the sun, Good conquers Evil.
To confirm the hopes and wishes expressed by the traditional foods, other elements and symbols are also put on the "SOFREH". Two books of tradition and wisdom are laid out. A Holly book like KORAN for Moslems and AVESTA for Zoroastrians and a volume of the poems of HAAFEZ, one of the greatest lyric Iranian poets of the fourteenth century. A few coins, called SEKEH in Persian, are placed on the "SOFREH" to represent prosperity and wealth. A basket of painted eggs representing fertility. An orange floating in a bowl of water representing the earth floating in the space and a goldfish in a bowl representing life and the end of astral year, Pisces. Nearby is a brazier for burning wild rue, a sacred herb whose smoldering fumes ward off the evil spirits. On either side of a mirror is holding two candelabra, holding a flickering candle for each child in the family. The candles represent enlightment. With hope of fire and light, we hope for happiness, through the coming year. The mirror represents the images and reflections of creation as we celebrate a new and ancient Iranian tradition and belief that creation took place on the first day of spring.
A few hours prior to TAHVEEL, the transition to the new year, family and friends sit around SOFREH-YE HAFT-SEEN. As the sun enters the Constellation Aries from Pisces on the stroke of the Equinox, TAHVEEL, the passage is announced by firing cannons and on radio and television.
The new year celebration continues for twelve days after TAHVEEL. On the thirteenth day of NOROUZ called SEEZDAH-BEDAR, literally meaning outdoor thirteen, entire families leave home to carry trays of sprouted seeds, SABZEH, in a procession to go picnic in a cool grassy place far from home. They throw SABZEH into the water and complete NOROUZ, the celebration of the end of one year and the rebirth of another.
New year traditional menu
- SABZEE POLO MAAHEE: Rice with fresh herb and fish representing rebirth and life.
- Bread, cheese and fresh herb representing prosperity.
- Noodle soup, called AASH, representing the Gordian Knot Of Life. Eating this symbolically helps towards unraveling life's knotty problems.
P.S. If you hadn't guessed already, the months in the Persian calendar are the same as those seen in astrology charts or horoscopes.

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