Nowruz or Nowroz (Persian: نوروز) meaning ‘New Day’ is the traditional Iranian new year holiday celebrated by Iranian people and initiated in Ancient Iran. It is a major part of the Iranian peoples’ rich culture and one of the cornerstones of the eastern civilisations. The ancient Iranians marked the last ten days of the solar year in a solemn ceremony of mourning (Farvardgan) to signify the end of life. This was followed by the festival of Norouz that in contrast celebrated the rebirth of nature, signifying the rebirth of life and this was a great occasion for celebration and joy.
Today, the festival of Nowruz is celebrated in many countries that were territories of, or influenced by, the Persian Empire: Iran, kurdistan, Afghanistan, parts of the Middle East, as well as in the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
It is also celebrated by the Zoroastrians as well by certain Iranic inhabitants in Pakistan’s Chitral region and the Iranian immigrants from Shiraz in Zanzibar.
In Turkey, it is called Nevruz in Turkish, Uyghurs who live in In Northwestern China called it as ” Noruz”, Sultan Nevruz in Albanian. In some remote communities located in parts of western Iran, the holiday is referred to as Nuroj, which literally means New Day in the Kurdish language.
It also called and spelled Norouz, Narooz, Nowruz, Nawruz, Newroz, Newruz, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, Nowroj, Navroj, Nevruz, Neyruz, Navruz, Navrez, Nooruz, Nauryz, Nowrouz, or Biram.
Nowruz or Nowroz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (the start of spring in the northern hemisphere), which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.
As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranian, it is also a holy day for Alawites, Alevis, Nizari Ismaili Muslims and adherents of the Bahai Faith.
The term Nowruz or Nowroz first appeared in Persian records in the second century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 648-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the emperor (Shahanshah) of Persia on Nowruz.
The Zoroastrians of ancient Persia celebrated the creation of life by offering their god, Ahura Mazda, seven trays filled with symbolic objects representing truth, justice, good thoughts, good deeds, virtue, prosperity, generosity and immortality.
One of the rock reliefs of the staircases in Persepolis depicts a procession of Median dignitaries on their way to the festival of Norouz, carrying ceremonial and symbolic offerings.
The first day on the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox i.e. the exact moment when the earth has completed one revolution of the Sun, the first day of spring. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator; sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.
Today, the Nowruz or Nowroz tradition is continued through the setting of a special table or spread with an arrangement of specific symbolic items, seven of which have names that start with the Persian letter Seen (s). These are:
Sabzeh: Wheat or lentils grown in a tray or dish prior to Norouz to represent rebirth.
Samanu: A sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolising affluence.
Senjed: The dried fruit of the oleaster tree which represents love.
Seer: (garlic in Persian) represents medicine.
Seeb: (apple in Persian) represents beauty and health.
Somaq: Sumac berries, which represent the colour of the sun rise.
Serkeh: (vinegar in Persian) represents age and patience.
Sonbol: (The hyacinth flower in Persian) with its strong fragrance heralding the coming of spring.
Sekkeh: (Coins in Persian) representative of wealth and prosperity.