Celebrating Nowruz, The Persian New Year

Learn about the traditions and history of this Persian holiday leading up to a workshop on March 13th, 2021.

By AIGA Detroit
5-7 Minute Read

Persian New Year, نوروز (Nowruz, pronounced now-rooz) in Farsi and meaning new day in English, celebrates a fresh start and new beginning. Falling on the first day of spring sometime between March 19th and 22nd, also known as the vernal equinox, this Persian holiday dates back to the ancient Persian empire of 3000 years ago. نوروز (Nowruz) is rooted in the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism which predates both Christianity and Islam. In Zoroastrianism, fire and water are considered symbols of purity and are consistent themes in the celebration of the holiday. This ritual isn’t bound to the borders of Iran — you can find نوروز (Nowruz) traditions across the span of the old Persian empire. Reaching from modern-day Iran to Afghanistan, and even within Turkey and India. The heritage of this Persian holiday of renewal and reflection is recognized in many Arab diasporas. When the day and the night are the same lengths, at the exact time of the equinox, the نوروز (Nowruz) celebrations begin! 

The هفت سین (Haft-Seen) and نوروز (Nowruz) Traditions

نوروز (Nowruz) preparations begin roughly three weeks before the equinox with the preparations of the هفت سین (Haft-Seen). هفت (Haft) meaning seven, and سین (Seen) meaning S’s refer to seven offerings laid upon a table symbolizing the essence of renewal in the new year. Seven, a lucky number to the Persian culture and people with regional or historical ties to Persia, also reiterates the bringing of new luck into the new year. The post نوروز (Nowruz) celebration lasting 13 days, a symbol of bad luck, ends with the release of that bad luck completing the ritual. The holiday focuses on bringing in new fortune and dispel any lingering negative energy, allowing for a fresh start.

There are many symbols and traditions that are common among all هفت سین (Haft-Seen), such as سبزه (Sabzeh): Some kind of sprout or grass that will continue to grow in the weeks leading up to the holiday, for rebirth and renewal. سنجد (Senjed): Dried fruit, ideally a sweet fruit from a lotus tree, for love. سیب (Sib): Apples, for beauty and health. سیر (Seer): Garlic, for medicine and protection. سمنو  (Samanue): A sweet pudding, for wealth and fertility and arguably the most important feature of the هفت سین (Haft-Seen). سرکه (Serkeh): Vinegar, for the patience and wisdom that comes with aging. سماق (Sumac): A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries, for the sunrise of a new day and the defeat of the darkness as the days become longer. Other commonplaces for the هفت سین (Haft-Seen) include a mirror for reflection, a goldfish in a bowl of water for rebirth and renewal, and filling vessels inside of your home with water, to banish bad luck from your home. It is also common to paint eggs, symbolizing fertility. 

Other than the هفت سین (Haft-Seen), the “shaking of the house” is another important part of the holiday. “Pretty much everyone goes into a serious spring-cleaning mode, ridding their homes of any unnecessary clutter and lingering grime that’s settled in over the past year so they can start fresh. At this time of year in Iran, you’re likely to see countless Persian rugs hanging outside, where their owners can beat the dust out of them.” – Caroline Framke, from her article Nowruz Explained published via Vox. The Wednesday leading up to the holiday also carries significant traditions for purifying yourself of the previous year and preparing you for the new one ahead. On the last Wednesday before نوروز (Nowruz) participants jump over bonfires symbolizing the burning away of bad luck/negative energy, and the light overtaking the night. The قاشق زنی (Qashoq Zani) takes place at the beginning of the festival, where children go door to door banging spoons on cooking pots; they won’t relent until something sweet is put into them! Once the time of نوروز (Nowruz) arrives, it kicks off a 13-day celebration of dinners, family visits, and reflections on the year ahead. On the 13th day, you take the سبزه (Sabzeh) that’s been growing in the هفت سین (Haft-Seen) to whatever natural body of running water you can find and let it float away, to release the old and usher in the New Year. 13, an unlucky number in Persian culture, and this end to the 13th day is the final ritual in clearing the negative energy and beginning a new year. 

Celebrate With Us! نوروز مبارک (Happy Nowruz!)

AIGA Detroit is celebrating نوروز (Nowruz) with a greeting card workshop welcoming spring! Hosted by Parisa Tashakori, graphic designer and Department of Advertising, Public Relations & Media Design, University of CO, Boulder, This workshop will take place on Saturday, March 13 | 11am-2 pm EST, 9am-12pm MST. The event costs $10 for members and $20 for non-members of AIGA* and includes a set of greeting cards of your own design for you to send out wishing نوروز مبارک (A happy Nowruz)! We currently have space for 15-30 attendees. Register Here: https://detroit.aiga.org/event/persian-new-year-greeting-card-workshop/

By aigadetroit
Published February 15, 2021
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.