Volume 90, Issue 93

Thursday, March 20, 1997



Nourooz - Persian for 'a new day'

Re: Persian New Year

To the editor:

People of Persian (Iranian) heritage celebrate their new year on the first day of spring. They call it Nourooz, which means "new day." About two weeks before the equinox, preparations for Nourooz begins. Preparations include cleaning the house, washing windows and throwing out the old and replacing it with the new.

On the last Tuesday of the year a ceremony takes place in which people jump over the fire. The ceremony is called shabeh-chahar-shanbeh souri, or "the last Tuesday night of the year," the significance of which is to strengthen the spring sun and to help it triumph over the dark and cold winter. Following the fire festivities, children partake in a ritual similar to trick or treating.

One of the most important activities is to prepare a haft seen, the seven symbolic objects beginning with the letter "S" in the Persian language. It is popularly believed that each item symbolizes the seven guardian angels of birth, life, health, happiness, prosperity, beauty and light. The most common objects are: sabzi, sprouted seeds for food and cultivation of the earth; samanou, sweet meat made of germinated wheat; seeb, apples for happiness; seerkeh, vinegar as a symbol of preservation; seer-garlic; seekeh-coins for wealth; and sonbol, a hyacinth flower growing in a pot to show the earth's productivity.

In order to complete the table there are other symbols used such as coloured eggs, which symbolize life, candles and the holy book, which are all placed along side of the other items. Last but not least, one prepares sabzy-polo-mohey, which is rice with white fish. It is the last dinner or lunch that will be served before the new year. The meal symbolizes bounty (rice), growth (herbs) and freshness (fish). Upon the completion of preparations, everyone anxiously awaits the arrival of the new season. The new year begins as soon as the sun crosses the equator, which usually occurs on the March 21. This year, however, it occurs tonight at 8:55:58 a.m., a time carefully estimated in advance.

At this point family members embrace and say "Sal Noo Mobark" to one another, then parents and children visit their elder relatives. They exchange gifts which are known as ayddy, which are usually in the form of money.

This celebration goes on for 13 days, the last day of which is called sizdeh beh dare. The entire family goes outdoors to enjoy spring and perhaps a picnic. Most people tie grass strings together, which signifies the hope that their wish will come true by the end of the new year. This is done especially for single people who wish to get married.

Let us hope that the arrival of the new year will usher in hope, prosperity and joy for all.

Samira Zarghami
Science IV

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Copyright The Gazette 1997