Nowruz is the national New Year festivity celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and throughout Central Asia. The first day of the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, which this year is March 20. It is a springtime celebration whose activities symbolize rebirth and the link between humans and nature. The Iranian poet Saadi (1210-1291) wrote “Awaken, the morning Nowruz breeze is showering the garden with flowers.”
Nowruz itself, which is Farsi for “new day,” is steeped in ancient myths and fiction, as well as traditions and symbolism. Preparations begin weeks before the start of spring, including housecleaning and growing sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean or lentils) in a dish. The dish is placed on the Haft-seen table, which is the focus of Nowruz observance. It is joined by six other symbolic items that start with the Persian letter “seen” or S. They include:
- Seeb (apples) - Symbol of health and beauty
- Senjed (dried oleaster berries) - Wisdom and rebirth
- Samanu (wheat pudding) - Strength/justice
- Somaq (sumac) - Patience
- Serkeh (vinegar) - Age/patience
- Seer (garlic) - Cleansing of body and environment
The Haft-seen spread also includes other items such as a Persian poetry book by Hafez, a mirror symbolizing reflection, colored eggs for fertility and goldfish in a bowl to represent life.
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