This month millions of people will be celebrating Nowruz, also known as Iranian New Year (or Persian New Year as Iran was historically referred to as Persia before 1935). The timing of this occasion is dependent on the equinox and, in England, Nowruz will take place on Saturday 20th March this year. It's a celebration of the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, the new year in the Iranian calendar, and with that, a fresh start.
Nowruz is a holiday enjoyed by several different faiths and translates literally to ‘new day’. There are many traditions that are followed during this celebration, including a thorough clean of the home, new clothes, and a number of traditional food items with representational significance. In the lead-up to the celebration, we spoke to @diba.darvishi to discover what the holiday means to her and her family.
Describe in your own words Nowruz, and what it means to you and your family.
More than 300 million people worldwide including Iran, Afghanistan, Albania, India, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan celebrate Nowruz, which marks the first day of spring as New Year, and this has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years. Nowruz is a very important date for the Iranian community, with very rich, and well-established traditions.
Nowruz for me and my family means to clean our house, be positive and be good to ourselves and others, near and far. As nature starts to move into spring, and bring new life, we as people also start our new life and leave all negative energy behind from the past year. As in the language Farsi, Nowruz simply means 'new day'.
Tell us about some popular traditions. Do your family have any of their own traditions and / or unique ways to celebrate?
A traditional Iranian table setting known as Haft-seen or Haft-sin (translated as ‘Seven Seen’) is often practiced for Nowruz and acts as an altar for the New Year. The Haft-seen is placed in a prominent location and consists of seven items that begin with the letter ‘S’ in the Farsi language, such as: sumac, garlic, elm, juice of geminating wheat, coins, vinegar, sprouting (or apple). Symbolic items that may or may not be on the table include decorating coins and eggs, a mirror, candles, a bowl of water with a goldfish in it, Divan of Hafez (a book of poetry). all representing various hopes for the new year, including health, wealth, and prosperity. For example, "Sir," the word for garlic, represents protection from illness and evil, white vinegar, or "Serkeh," represents longevity and patience.
On Nowruz, family members gather around the table, right before the beginning of the New Year, and wait for the Vernal Quinox (which refers to two moments in the year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, and day and night are of an equal length). This year for us in the UK, this will be Saturday, March 20th, 2021, 9:37:28 am exactly. When this time arrives, we exchange gifts, and in particular, the head of the family (grandparents) give money to the youngest members as a gift.
What do you do in the days leading up to Nowruz to prepare for the event?
Before the New Year, all Persian households clean their homes, from top to bottom, and this act is usually performed the day before Nowruz. Iranian families welcome the new year with sparkling homes, and new clothes. Traditionally we visit family, friends, neighbours, and share meals together, or host parties for all to join. As a community, we come together to celebrate the beginning of spring, and do so in the hope that we will continue throughout the next year to always have healthy and clean surroundings, such as our home.
Do you involve your children in your preparations? Are there specific things they can help with?
For me and my family, the children come together to help decorate the house, and set the Haft-seen, and in particular, they paint the eggs for decoration, and make the table even more beautiful.
What foods do you cook? Do you use traditional family recipes?
For Nowruz, the main dish is usually Sabzi Polo Mahi: fried fish and rice filled with green herbs. Across the world, in different countries, cities, and households this tradition can change depending on where you live.
How do you dress for the occasion? Talk us through the outfits you chose for Diba & Dario.
Nowruz is the time to begin fresh and clean, and this includes buying all new clothing to solidify and symbolize this fresh start. From New Year, everything worn must be brand new. Children usually wear quite formal, special occasion pieces, such as party dresses for girls, and shirts and smart trousers for boys, and this is done to be presentable to their elder members of the family such as grandparents. This year, despite lockdown, Diba and Dario will be continuing the formal tradition, and wearing new outfits to look elegant.
For more information on Nowruz, read 7 Things You Need to Do For Persian New Year
- What to wear -
All images by @diba.darvishi
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