Nowruz, the Persian New Year
The word Nowruz (Novruz, Navruz, Nooruz, Nevruz, Nauryz), means new day; its spelling and pronunciation may vary by country. Nowruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on 21 March. It is celebrated as the beginning of the new year by more than 300 million people all around the world and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and other regions.
International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday. In the 71st plenary meeting on 23 February 2010, The General Assembly welcomed the inclusion of Nowruz in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.
In Iran, preparations for Nowruz celebrations begin weeks before the start of spring, including house-cleaning (khaneh takani). Families also grow sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean or lentils) in a dish. When the greens sprout after a couple of weeks, the dish is placed on the Haft-seen table, which is the focus of Nowruz observance. It symbolizes rebirth and renewal of the nature and is joined by six other symbolic items which start with the Persian letter "seen" or S. That makes seven, a sacred number in Zoroastrianism. They include:
Sumac (crushed spice of berries): For the sunrise and the spice of life
Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree): For love and affection
Serkeh (vinegar): For patience and age
Seeb (apples): For health and beauty
Sir (garlic): For good health
Samanu (wheat pudding): For fertility and the sweetness of life
This year Corona virus hit the Nowruz hard. CNN spoke to a university student in Tehran, who describes how locals are trying to preserve the communal traditions of Nowruz while staying apart. “The mood is somber. It's somber because this is supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year. This is supposed to be one of the busiest times of the year, when people get together and visit their families. As for Nowruz itself, the tradition is to go to every member of your family's house and you have lunches and dinners. Today many people are putting up banners wishing their neighbors a happy new year. And sometimes you'll see a slogan underneath that says "let's all stay at home.”
“Part of the reason why the mood in Iran is somber is that the last two years have been a time of very difficult economic situation, because of the imposition of US sanctions by Donald Trump in 2018 when he broke the US-Iran nuclear agreement. So we went from a situation where the economy was growing, people were very optimistic about the future and there was a sense that the situation was getting better, to a situation in which the economic growth flattened, it became contracted.” You can read the full interview here.
Here is the UN Secretary-General's message on the international day of Nowruz:
“Every year, we mark Nowruz as a day of new beginnings, when we step into a new year with hope and joy. We celebrate the renewal of nature and the first day of spring.
This year, for many, Nowruz comes at a time of sadness and anxiety. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is casting a shadow around the world, including the regions that mark this ancient festival. I send my deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my best wishes to all who have been affected.
I hope the festival of Nowruz will provide a welcome break to relax and spend time with close family, enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons, and to remember and celebrate our common humanity. Nowruz is renewal. As you mark its arrival with fire, special dishes, green shoots and other rituals, I hope you will find a shared sense of friendship and harmony with nature.
I wish you a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous Nowruz.”
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, wish you all a happy New Year and a year full of health, success and peace.