What is Nowruz?
The Word “Nowruz” is made up of two words of “Now” and “Ruz”. In Farsi, “Now” is translated to new while “Ruz” is defined as day. Therefore, word by word, Nowruz means new day. this is a very fitting name as it appropriately stands for the spirit of the Persian new year which is about the end of Winter, the birth of Spring, and a fresh start for those who have been celebrating it for centuries.
A Brief History of Nowruz
A peculiar aspect of Nowruz is that it is celebrated by a diverse group of ethnicities across the globe. As much as some have denoted Nowruz as a secular holiday, it could be partly traced back to the religious tradition of Zoroastrianism. This ancient religion was started by the prophet Zoroaster in the 6th century BCE. An indispensable tenet of Zoroastrianism is man’s connection to nature. Nowruz is Mother Nature’s call for us to embrace its beauty, inspiration, and its love. It is as if nature allows us to reboot our souls before starting a new beginning, a new journey, and an enlightenment.
Who Celebrate Nowruz
Besides Iran, Nowruz is celebrated in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, India, United States, and Canada. Keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive. Across Europe and Australia, Nowruz is celebrated among those from Middle East and Central Asia.
Landmark Traditions of Nowruz
Chahar Shanbe Souri: The Ancient Fire Jumping Tradition
Every year, on the last Wednesday of the year that is about to end, Chahar Shanbe Souri, is celebrated. Word by words, it can be translated as red Wednesday. On such date, people gather and lit bonfires and jump over them. Fire, in ancient tradition, would grant its bright glow and energy to us while taking away our sickly yellowness. In British Columbia, Iranian, Afghan, and Kurd communities celebrate Chahar Shanbe Souri at Ambleside Park and/or Lafarge Lake.
Haft Seen Table: Table of 7 S’s
The word “Haft Seen” is made up of two words, Haft and Seen. Haft in farsi means number 7 and Seen Is the Persian letter for word S. Haft Seen Table is by far the quintessential embodiment of the Nowruz celebration. It is very rare to find a home without a Haft Seen Table decoration around the new year. Be it elaborate or minimalistic, below are some of items that are present in Haft Seen Table:
Seeb (Apple)à standing for health and beauty
Serkeh (Vinegar)à standing for patience
Sabzeh (Sprouted wheat grass)à standing for renewal nature
Sir (Garlic)à standing for good health =
Sumac (Crushed spice of Berries)à standing for the spice of life
Sekeh (Coins)à standing for wealth
Samanu (Wheat Pudding)à standing for sweetness.
Interestingly, Haft Seen Table can also include Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, or the Shahname, an epic story of Persian Kings and princes that was written by Persian poet Ferdowsi in 1000 BCE.
Sizdah Bedar: The last Day of Nowruz Celebration
On the 13th day of the Nowruz celebration, families spend their time in nature. It is as if this massive picnic takes place. Families share food, sing, dance, and all in all enjoy their time in nature. The word Sizdah Bedar is literally interpreted as getting rid of the 13th. I remember not really being able to enjoy Sizdah Bedar fully as I was always thinking about school tomorrow and to be quite frank I was never ready to go back. I am certain my parents can relate as adults also went back to work on the day after the Sizdah Bedar.
“In my heart you are the mirthful ray
You are the caring, though my companions they
Happy is the world with the Nowruz and with the Eid
You are both my Eid and my Nowruz today”