Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Persian New Year

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...Happy New Year!!” This is a common phrase heard in many different languages throughout the world on New Years. The Persian New Year, also known as “Norouz” is the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year. “Norouz”, means new day. Norouz is celebrated by some communities on March 21st and by others on the first day of the start of spring which may occur on March 20th, 21st, or 22nd. The Persian New Year is a big historical celebration that has many traditions including, Chahrshanbe Suri, Hajji Firuz, Sizdah Bedar, and the Haft-seen.
The last Tuesday of the Iranian year is celebrated as Chahrshanbe Suri, which is the Iranian festival of fire. Chahrshanbe Suri is the celebration of the light. The Iranians believe the light is the good wins over the darkness, which is the bad. In Iran, the tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make fires and jump over them while chanting “Give me your beautiful red color, and take back my sickly pallor!” In America, Chahrshanbe Suri is usually celebrated at beaches with hundreds of people attending the event. The people jump over bonfires and celebrate with lots of music, dancing, and food.
Hajji Firuz is the prophet of the “Norouz” season. He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi. Domuzi was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year. Hajji Firuz wears face paint to make his skin black and wears a traditional Persian red costume. He sings and dances through the streets with a tambourine and spreads good cheer for the coming of the New Year. At almost all of the cultural gatherings of the celebration of the Persian New Year, Hajji Firuz always makes an appearance. In America, Hajji Firuz is known to give all of the children presents; he is like the “Santa Clause” of Iran.
The thirteenth day of the Norouz celebration is known as Sizdah Bedar, which literally means, “thirteen to the door”. This day came from the belief of ancient Persians who believed that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year. Also that each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos. This is why “Norouz” lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day is when families avoid bad luck associated with the number thirteen by having the picnics and parties. Sizdah Bedar is open to the public where all the families go on picnics usually at the park or the beach and is accompanied by music, dancing and lots of food. At the end of the celebration, the sabzeh (sprouts), which is grown usually at the beginning of the twelve day celebration, is thrown out into the water to get rid of all the bad.
As part of the celebration, families create a Haft-seen on either a Persian carpet or a table. This is a ceremonial table which is translated to the cloth of seven dishes because each item begins with the Persian letter Sinn. There are seven dishes because the number seven has been sacred in Iran since ancient times and the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of the rebirth of life, heath, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty. The first dish is the sabzeh which represents rebirth. The second is samanu, which is a pudding that represents persian cooking. Third is a seeb, which is an apple that represents health and beauty. Fourth is senjed, which is a dry fruit of the Lotus tree and represents love. Fifth is seer, which is garlic and represents medicine. Sixth is somaq, which are berries that represent the color of the sunrise. The meaning behind this is that the appearance of the sun, the good conquers the evil. Last is Serkeh, which is vinegar, and represents patience. Along with these items, there are also other items that are placed on the Haft-seen. A mirror is placed on the table which represents reflections of Creation. A flask of rose water is known for its cleansing power. A goldfish in a bowl represents life. A basket of painted eggs represents fertility. Eggs are usually painted by the children in the family. A few Persian coins represent wealth. Two candles on either side of the mirror represent happiness.
The Persian New Year has been celebrated for at least three thousand years and is deeply rooted in the traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. In Iran, preparations for the New Year’s celebration begin in the last month of winter. The Iranians prepare with spring cleaning in their houses, purchase new clothes to wear for the upcoming year and buy flowers; the most popular flowers being the hyacinth and the tulip. On the actual day of New Years, the families wear their new clothes and start a twelve day celebration (the twelve days before Sizdah Bedar) in which they visit their family and friends. On the thirteenth day, which is Sizdah Bedar the families and friends all get together and picnic. A lot of people throw large parties for Norouz. These parties are a gathering of close family and friends in which the host supplies a lot of food, fruits, and pastries. Some traditional Persian New Years dinners that are served are Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with green herbs that is served with fish, Reshteh Polo, which is rice cooked with noodles, and Dolme Barg, which is vegetables mixed with meat that have been cooked and rapped in a vine leaf. During this party there is dancing and lots of socializing. Children are given gifts from Hajji Firuz and families usually give the younger generation money. The money that is given is usually given in brand new one dollar bills. “Norouz” is the most popular holiday for the people of the Persian Culture and they love to celebrate the new upcoming year and be with their friends and families.

Iran.Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta. Farmington Hills, MI: Blackbirch Press, 2005

Iran: A Primary Source Cultural Guide. Spence, Lauren. New York: Rosen Pub. Group’s Power Plus Books, 2004


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