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It’s time to celebrate Persian New Year: Nowruz!

 

Photo by Parham S licensed CC BY-NC 2.0  

It’s time to celebrate the Persian New Year called Nowruz (say "NO-rooz"). Let’s learn more about this special holiday that comes around every spring. 

What is it?

Baha'i temple

Photo of Bahá’í Temple by Chris Bentley licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Nowruz is the name of the New Year’s Day holiday that’s celebrated by many countries in the Middle East and Central Asia and those in the Bahá’í faith (say "ba-HIGH"). It marks the beginning of the Bahá’í year and falls at the start of spring. This year, the holiday is observed on March 20th (or 21st, depending on your location). Nowruz means "new day," which is fitting since it celebrates new beginnings.

How is it celebrated?

traditional Kazah dancers

Traditional Kazakh Nowruz dancers. Photo by Ken & Nyetta licensed CC BY 2.0 

Before the holiday, people prepare for Nowruz with a nineteen-day Bahá’í fast. They go without food from sunrise to sunset. During this time, people also focus on daily prayers and reflections. Some get ready for Nowruz by cleaning their house from top to bottom and decorating their homes with fresh flowers. When Nowruz finally arrives, people dress up and visit with friends and family, celebrating with prayers, music, dancing and feasts. It's a time of joyful celebration.

Are there any other special traditions?

a traditional Nowruz table

Photo by Karl Stewart licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

The Haft-Sin table is an important part of Nowruz celebrations. This table is carefully set up with items, some of which will be shared with family and friends on the holiday. A special cloth called a sofreh is first placed on the table. Then seven traditional items are arranged on it, including: wheat, lentils or barley, flowers, dried fruit, garlic, apples and vinegar. Each item is a symbol of spring and renewal. Sometimes the table is also decorated with other items, like a holy book, a mirror, a goldfish in a bowl for good luck, or painted eggs.

What happens after Nowruz?

Persians in Holland having picnics by the river

Persians in Holland celebrating Sizdah Bedar. (Wikimedia/PersianDutchNetwork/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Thirteen days after Nowruz is celebrated, a festival called Sizdah Bedar is held. On this day, families spend time outside at a park or in the countryside and have a festive picnic. The day is all about being outside in nature and enjoying spring. At the end of the day, each family throws away the greenery from their Haft-Sin table. This ritual symbolizes a new beginning for families as the New Year gets started.