Iran Part Two – Happy Nowruz! (Persian New Year)

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Eid-e-shoma moborak! (Ayed-eh-show-ma Mo-bar-rak!) سال نو مبارک

Photo Courtesy of Eela Arvin

That's how you wish someone a Happy New Year in Persian (Farsi)! I'll try to show you how to pronounce the words by spelling them out how they sound in parenthesis, but if you're really curious there are lots of great videos online about learning to speak Persian (get your parents' permission before browsing though).

I can hear you thinking, "But we already celebrated new year in China, didn't we Joy?" And yes, we did! But the New Year in many countries happens sometime just before when spring begins. For Persians, they like to celebrate the moment spring is here, no matter what time of day, or night, it happens to be! The whole family, and lots of friends, and probably friends of friends, get together to celebrate. This year, Persian New Year lands on March 20th UTC, and it's the year 1395 on the Persian calendar. **UPDATE for 2019: Depending where you live the world, Persian New Year falls on March 20th or 21st this year and the Persian calendar will be 1398. **UPDATE for 2020: This year, Persian New Year falls on the 19th or 20th of March, depending on where you live. The Persian calendar year will be 1399.

Unlike most new year celebrations, which happen in each time zone independently, the Persian New Year is celebrated around the world at the same moment. So we'll be celebrating at 8:00AM in Tehran (1:28AM in 2019 and 7:19AM in 2020), but someone in Australia will celebrate at 3:30PM (8:58AM in 2019 and 2:49AM in 2020). If you're curious, you can visit this page and it will tell you when you can celebrate with me from any place in the world!

Ali and Bahar's family are getting everything ready for the new year, which is Nowruz in Persian (Farsi). Their Mom has been working hard at preparing the Sofreh Haft-Seen, a special table decorated with many things, each starting with the letter "S"and each with its own special meaning.  Does that name look and sound familiar? If you've seen this video about counting to ten in Persian (Farsi), you may remember that haft is the Persian word for "seven". That's because the haft-seen, or "seven S", is supposed to have at least seven of these special items on it.

 

 



First a special cloth, probably a family heirloom, is spread out on the table. The table is prepared a month ahead of time, but for a few days just before the Sal Tahvil (sahl-tah-veel), the moment of the new year, the family will start decorating the table with all of the "S" items:

  1. Sabzeh - lentils and wheat will be soaked to sprout green stems to represent rebirth and growth. The family will keep the sabzeh for the first 13 days of Nowruz.
  2. Sir (Seehr) - garlic, to symbolize health and medicine.
  3. Sib (seeb) - a red apple to represent health and beauty.
  4. Serkeh (sere-keh) - vinegar for age and patience.
  5. Samanu - a sweet wheat pudding to represent abundance and fortune.
  6. Senjed - wild olives for love and compassion.
  7. Sumac (pronounced so-maag) - a red spice, that is common at most Persian tables, is added to represent the color of the sunrise and wishes for a zesty new year.

If necessary, any of the first seven items can be substituted with:

  1. Sekkeh (seh-keh) - gold coins to symbolize the wealth and prosperity of the new year.
  2. Sombul (sohm-bowl) - a beautiful hyacinth flower representing the arrival of spring.

In addition, many families will include even more things on the Haft-Seen:

  • Goldfish, in a bowl, for life.
  • Decorated eggs, usually one for each member of the family, to symbolize children in the family's future. Usually the kids paint one for each family member, so I got to paint one of me!
  • A mirror, to represent looking at ourselves to try and be better people (or better bears!).
  • Lit candles for more light and happiness in life.
  • Something green, something white, and something red, a symbol of national patriotism.
  • An orange floating in a bowl of water, to remind us that we're all floating through space together on the one planet we have.
  • Rose water, for cleansing.
  • A holy book like the Quran, the Divan of Hafez, or the Shahnameh, the epic of the Persian Kings of old, written by a famous poet named Ferdowsi.
  • Pastries like baghlava, toot and naan-nokhodchi to represent sweetness.
 

Meanwhile, the whole house smells like amazing food! The traditional meal is a baked or pan fried white fishkuku sabzi (baked or fried herbs and eggs) and a rice dish called sabzi-polo that is filled with many herbs. Fish and sabzeh-polo are always eaten on the first day of new year because the fish means life and all the herbs (sabzi) in the polo represent rebirth. It's so interesting that even the Nowruz meal has so much meaning! I asked Ali and Bahar's mom for the recipes to share with you, so let me know if you and your family enjoy them! There are other amazing foods like pastries (so yummy I had to mention them again!) dried fruit and nuts (aajeel) and of course, tea, called chai with rosewater. Let's just say after all that good eating I had to wait a little while before I could practice my Persian dancing with Bahar! 🙂

 

In the gallery above you probably noticed a man in red with a face covered in black soot. His name is Haji Firooz (Hah-jee Fee-rooz), and sometimes his face is painted all black and sometimes it's half white and half black. He's a traditional character of Nowruz and companion of Uncle Nowruz (called Amu Nowruz in Persian). Haji Firooz can be found dancing through the streets, singing and playing tambourine, to get everyone excited for Nowruz. (Photo By By سعید (اثر_شخصی_توسط_بارگذار) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons). 

Ali and Bahar are very excited for something called Sizdeh Bedar (seez-day beh-dar), or the Thirteenth Day. Thirteen days after Nowruz, because the number 13 is considered bad luck, families head outdoors to spend the day in nature. We will be going to this amazing park pictured above in Tehran! There is usually lots of food being cooked outside and children spend the day playing games. On this day, the sabzeh that has been collecting all the negativity on the Sofreh Haft-Seen is thrown away into flowing water, to symbolize washing away any negativity and sickness left over from last year to start the new year fresh.

Practical jokes are common on that day, a lot like America's "April Fools" holiday. Young women looking forward to marriage may tie a knot with thesabzeh before throwing it into the water, or they may tie a knot in the grass, to represent tying the knot with their future sweetheart.

Check out these two great videos below, by PressTV, for more information about Nowruz, as well as some great shots of Tehran during the celebration!


One of my favorite things about Ali and Bahar's home are the carpets! So intricate and detailed, these carpets take many years to make, and they only get stronger with age. Most of the carpets in their house have been passed down from one generation to the next.  The earliest Persian carpet mentioned in writing was over 2,400 years ago, so they've been making them in Iran for a very long time!

Would you like to make a Persian carpet? Try out this easy craft below!

 


Photos Above By Joy Sun Bear, Inc. (www.joysunbear.com)

 Supplies needed

  • Heavy paper/poster board
  • Hole puncher
  • Paint and paint brushes
  • Markers
  • Yarn or string
  • Scissors
  • Ruler

Instructions

  • Measure and cut the paper or poster board into a rectangle.
  • Use the hole puncher to put holes along the bottom of each of the short sides of the paper.
  • Use markers to outline your Persian carpet design.
  • Paint your design.
  • Wait for the paint to dry, then add short pieces of string or yarn by tying them in each hole.
  • Ta-da! You've got your very own mini Persian carpet!

How fun, right? Let me know how yours turns out! You can even ask your parent or teacher to send me a picture to info@joysunbear.com and I can show it off on my website!

Thanks for visiting friends! Next week, I'll be writing to you more about the amazing food, culture and schools here in Iran! Don't miss it! 

Hope your New Year is fun and fantastic!

Khoda hafez خداحافظ 

Your friend,

Joy Sun Bear 

joysunbear
Author: joysunbear

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3 thoughts on “Iran Part Two – Happy Nowruz! (Persian New Year)”

  1. I am not from Iran but my culture celebrates Nawrooz too. I don’t know the whole history of how we got it but this really made me wonder. Happy Nawrooz to you!

  2. I was surprised to read how similar we all are. All cultures have new year, similar traditions like buying new clothes, preparing certain foods, celebrating with near and dear ones….This just shows us that we are all the same inside just expressing ourselves in different languages.

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