By Fariba Amini
Photo by Alieh Saadatpour
Updated March 31, 2011
Nowruz is recognized as the holiest and most joyful festival of the Zoroastrian year, starting on the vernal Equinox, when the sun crosses the equator and spring begins, on or around March 21.
The haft sin table may include the following items, each representing special meaning:
sabzeh/sprouted grass or wheat- for rebirth of nature
seer/garlic- for health
sonbol/hyacinth- for perfume
sumagh/sumaq- for sunrise
sekkeh/coin- for prosperity
- serkeh/vinegar- for patience
- senjed/dried fruit of Oleaster tree- for love
samanoo/wheat germ- for affluence
seeb/apple- for health
Goldfish in a bowl (for life), a mirror (for light), a copy of the Koran (or a holy book), colored eggs (for fertility), candles (for happiness) and Persian sweets (for sweetness) are additional items used to decorate the table.
The special food designated for the Nowruz celebration consists of Sabzi Polo (rice with herbs), fish and vegetable paddies.
Just prior to the beginning of the New Year, the family elder sits with their immediate family around the haft sin table. Once the New Year is announced on the radio or television, everyone gets up and kisses each other. The elders give crisp, new money and sweets to the younger members of the family. When the day is over, and for the next few days, Iranians visit one another and offer New Year’s greetings, taking flowers and sweets to each other.
The official holiday in Iran is 13 days long, where people vacation or take a break. On the 13th day, they travel to the country or to a park where they celebrate Sizdah Bedar, which essentially means getting the 13 (thirteen being unlucky) out of your system for the coming year. On this day the sprouted wheat, which by now is wilted, is thrown into a flowing stream. Traditionally, unmarried young women tie the grass in hopes of tying the knot in the coming year.
"Iranian-Americans and Afghan-Americans, as well as other peoples who connect their identities to Anatolia or the Caucuses, to Central or Western Asia consider themselves heir to Nowruz because they have seen it observed in their traditional spaces—their legends and literary traditions,” said Karimi-Hakkak.
This year, in the Iranian calendar year of 1390, Nowruz falls on Sunday, March 20th at exactly 11:20 p.m.
Nowruz in the U.S.
For the first time in 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Nowruz in its formal calendar as the festival of Persian origin that has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. The UN calls Nowruz, “An affirmation of life in harmony with nature, the awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labour and natural cycles of renewal and the solicitous and respectful attitude towards natural sources of life.”
On March 22, 2010, the United States Congress acknowledged Nowruz as an official holiday for Iranian-Americans, wishing “the people of Iran and all those who observe this holiday, a prosperous new year.”
This year, President Obama sent Nowruz greetings to the nearly half million Iranian-Americans and other Persian speaking people around the world.
Nowruz at Maryland
Upcoming events related to the Persian New Year:
Chaharshanbeh Suri (Festival of Fire)
Sunday, March 13, 2010, 5-10 PM
Bowie Baysocks Stadium
4101 NE Crain Highway Bowie, MD 20716
Enjoy an evening of sports, dancing and fire jumping. For more information on cost, please visit ISF.
Nowruz (Persian New Year)
Friday, March 18, 6-11 PM
Nyumburu Cultural Center
Stamp Student Union, College Park, MD
Graduate students are invited to join the Graduate Iranian Student Foundation around a decorated Nowruz table to celebrate the Persian New Year and enjoy a traditional Persian dance performance choreographed and directed by Khatoon and musical performance conducted by internationally renowned Persian musician Mr. Kazem Davoudian (www.davoudian.com). Performances will be followed by dance and music featuring DJ Safa and Arya.
Saturday, April 2, 6:30-8 PM
Grand Ballroom, Stamp Student Union
UMD's Iranian Student Foundation proudly present Nowruz 1390. Enjoy an evening of dance, music, skits, and traditional dinner provided by Moby Dick House of Kabobs. For more information, please view flier.