21 Mar

Map of the Week: Nowruz



















By Ivana Mowry-Mora

Nowruz is a holiday marking the Persian New Year and the first day of spring. Originating more than 3,000 years ago, the 13-day festival symbolizes renewal and harmony with nature. It begins at the exact moment of the Northern Hemisphere’s vernal equinox, typically between March 19 and 22. The vernal equinox this year was on March 19th! 

Some 300 million people around the world are starting their annual celebration of what is to them the biggest cultural holiday of the year, typically involving 13 days of rituals. Nowruz (alternatively spelled Nauruz, Nauryz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Norooz, Norouz, or Novruz), also known as Persian New Year (Nowruz means “new day” in Persian), is celebrated across ethnic groups with a common Silk Roads heritage, including Afghanistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkey, as well as their diaspora in other countries. It is celebrated by communities from Central Asia to the Balkans

Rooted in Zoroastrianism, an ancient monotheistic religion, Nowruz festivities are celebrated in countries with significant Persian cultural influence. Ancient texts suggest that Nowruz was celebrated in the ancient city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire which lasted from 550 to 330 BC. Across regions, events during Nowruz vary according to customs, but they share common themes of rebirth, new beginnings and the celebration of nature.

To symbolize the new year’s fresh start, celebrants often engage in spring cleaning, or “khaneh tekani,” gift exchanges, family gatherings, buying new clothes and more. Children often enjoy a break from school during this time. One common pre-festival ritual involves leaping over fire and streams to cleanse the past year’s negativity. On the 13th day of Nowruz, some countries observe sizdah bedar, a custom that involves picnicking outside to ward off bad luck.

Another notable Iranian tradition is the gathering of families around the ceremonial Half-Sin table, which displays seven items beginning with the Persian letter “sin,” each holding special symbolism. The table includes apples (seeb) for beauty, garlic (seer) for health, vinegar (serkeh) for patience, hyacinth (sonbol) for spring, sweet pudding (samanu) for fertility, sprouts (sabzeh) for rebirth and coins (sekeh) for wealth.



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