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How to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year


Atta Kenare/Getty Images

Nowruz (say "NO-rooz") is the Persian New Year celebrated by many countries in the Middle East, Central Asia and those in the Bahá’í faith (say "ba-HIGH").

This special holiday marks the beginning of the Bahá’í year and falls at the start of spring. This year it takes place on March 20th.

Nowruz literally means "new day," which is fitting since it celebrates new beginnings.

Celebrations are different now because of the pandemic, but let's see how Nowruz has usually been celebrated in the past.

How is it celebrated?

Turkish girl celebrating Nowruz

A young Turkish girl celebrates Nowruz. (Ilyas Akengin/Getty Images)

Before the holiday, people prepare for Nowruz with a 19-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. 

What are Nowruz traditions?

Haft-sin table for Nowruz includes flowers, goldfish, garlic, painted eggs, apples, candles and greenery.
Image courtesy of Pixabay

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 (food) 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.

Live goldfish symbolize new life and are sometimes included on the table. Other items include eggs for fertility, coins for prosperity and a mirror for reflection.

What happens after Nowruz?

Iranians picnic in the park to celebrate Sizdah Bedar, the 13th day of Nowruz.
Iranians picnic in the park to celebrate Sizdah Bedar, the 13th day of Nowruz. Atta Kenare/Getty Images

Thirteen days after Nowruz is celebrated, a festival called Sizdah Bedar (say "sees-DAH bay-dar") 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.