Nowruz – Persian New Year
The first day of spring is also the beginning of the new year on the Iranian (Persian) calendar.
The holiday's name means “New Day” in the Farsi (Persian) language, and this ancient festival is celebrated as a holy day by the Zoroastrian and Bahai faiths.
This holiday is not only celebrated in Iran, but also in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and other areas in Asia and eastern Europe. The holiday is variously spelled Norouz, Norooz, Narooz, Nawruz, Newroz, Newruz, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, Nowroj, Navroj, Nevruz, Neyruz, Наврӯз, Navruz, Navrez, Nooruz, Nauryz, Nevruz, Nowrouz. The fact that Persian is written in Persian script rather than the Latin or Roman alphabet we use probably explains so many different spellings.
Celebrating in Iran
Leading up to Nowruz, most families do a really thorough house-cleaning (spring cleaning) and buy new clothes and flowers. They stock up on pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, tea, and sherbet.
On Nowruz itself, Iranian families gather around the Haft Sin table, exchange gifts, and then put on their new outfits to begin the 12-day rounds of visits to family, friends, and neighbors. Younger family members usually visit elderly relatives first, and most visits are reciprocated. (In other words, if Taraneh's family visits Touse's family, later in the week Touse's family will, in turn, visit Taraneh's.) And of course, all the goodies listed above are enjoyed during these visits.
You may wonder what the Haft Sin table is. It is a display of “the seven S's”—seven items that begin with the letter “S” (Sin) in Farsi. These items correspond to seven “elements of life” (Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, Human), and to the major astronomical bodies known to the ancients (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Moon and Sun).
The seven items are wheat sprouts, a sweet pudding, dried fruit of the oleaster tree, garlic, apples, sumac berries, and vinegar. Other items that are often added to the display include coins, candles, a mirror, decorated eggs, goldfish, rosewater, national colors, and a holy book. Each item symbolizes something such as wealth or health or life.
In addition to the treats eaten during Nowruz visits, the traditional New Year's Day meal in some areas features rice with herbs (parsley, coriander, chives, dill, and fenugreek) served with fish. Other dishes include rice cooked with noodles and herb and vegetable souffle.
Learn about the ancient Persian empire.
Between the years 545 B.C. and 525 B.C., the Persians conquered nearby territories and established an empire about 3,000 miles wide. It was the largest empire of its time.
- There is a 5-part YouTube documentary about the ancient Persians, starting here.
- You can find a variety of free Power Point presentations, meant for kids, here.
Check out the lovely Persian script here.
Words + Puzzles = Wuzzles
The word puzzles we call wuzzles had their start 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia. (Of course, they were the ancient Persian language!)
An example is this one:
What do you think it means?
ANSWER: Long underwear (because the word long appears under the word wear)
Here is another:
ANSWER: An inside job
There are lots of wuzzles to try here.