Category Archives: TRADITION & CUSTOM

History of Nowruz

Iranian New Year that starts around in 20th March is the greatest Iranian feast celebrating over 3000 years in Balkan, Black sea, and Western Asia. There are many legends with different concepts but same structure about Iranian New Year, Nowruz.  Nowruz literally means new-day in which “Now” means “new” and “Ruz” means “day.”

History of Nowruz

Aryan was the largest ethnic immigrant who arrived in Iranian Plateau and Central of Asia around 4000 years ago while the emergence of Zoroastrianism back to around 1200 to 1700 BC. Even in Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians, there is no address of celebrating Nowruz.

Although, there is no any proved documents about origin of Nowruz, but based on some opinions with arriving spring, the king of Babylon went to the Marduk Temple, the mightiest Babylonian God, to show that Marduk has been supported his reign and then had been allowing to ordinary people to meet him. After capturing of Babylon by the great Cyrus, other Achaemenian Kings followed this ceremony each year. This feast would be end up after 13 days celebration; people went out for picnic outdoors in day of 13th under the influence of Babylonian mythology known the number of 13th as an ominous number.

However, based on Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, Jamshid, the mythical Iranian king, is a first man who celebrated Nowruz. According to Zoroastrian texts, Jamshid is a one who saved humankind from killer winter which destined to kill every living creature.   

Obviously, Nowruz, this significant Iranian feast, was made by the collection of natural conditions as well as traditional Iranian beliefs such as Mitraism and Zoroastrianism. It has been thought that the famous complex construction of Perspolis or the Palace of Apadana and its the hundred columns Halls were built for specific purpose of celebrating Nowruz that can be observed in Achaemenid inscriptions. Based on engraved inscriptions on the Perpolis and the other ones, Nowruz was a day in Achaemenid Empire used to bring gifts to the mightiest king of Iran by royals in other nations (550-530 BC).

Although, extensive records about Nowruz and its customs have been obtained by reminded inscriptions from Sassanid dynasty (224-651 BCE). Nowruz was celebrated under Sassanid emperors as the most important day in which royal audiences with the public, cash and gifts, and pardoning of prisoners were established during those eras and persisted unchanged until modern time.

In Islamic era, especially Abbasids dynasty and under the influence of Iranian Ministers recognized it officially because of continuation of tax and gifts, even some of them held Nowruz with the same glory and formalities as Sassanid Court.

In the other era, Nowruz had been remaining in high respect and reverential among royals and ordinary people. It has believed the only point causing Nowruz immortalized is that it has become a non-removable part of people’s culture.

In contemporary era, before collapse of the Soviet Union, Iran was the only country that officially celebrated Nowruz. After independent of Caucasian, Central Asia from the Soviet Union, Nowruz have officially been celebrated by these newly independent states. Nowruz recognized firstly by the UN’s General Assembly in 2010 celebrating by many people for almost over 3000 years.

Nowruz’s Custom

Iranian with housecleaning, providing sweets and different kinds of nuts, buying new garments especially for children provides themselves for celebrating Nowruz.

The two main customs before arriving Nowruz are Iranian Fire Jumping (Chaharshanbe Suri) on the sunset of last Tuesday and going to cemetery in last Thursday of a year in order to keep the remembering of the dead ones alive.

Chaharshanbe Suri - History of Nowruz - Parvaz Aram Abi

The concept of Chaharshanbe Suri comes from the Ancient Persia who strongly believed that Fire is one of the holy elements in the world and has power to remove all winter evils, its chilling and darkness. On the sunset of last Tuesday of year, Iranian makes bonfires and jumps over them while whispering this poetic “zardi man az to, sorkhi ye to az man” which literally means “my yellow is yours, your red is mine.” This means you want the fire (as a purification element) to remove your pallor, sickness and all problems and instead of them give them warmth and energy. In some areas in Iran, in the morning of last Wednesday of the year, people go on Wells, Aqueducts, or springs in order to bring water and pour it throughout their entire home in order to Anahita, the mightiest goddess of Water, remove every pallor and problems completely.

In last Thursday, people go to the cemetery and washing graves while putting flowers and sweets on them and whish for their souls blessing and forgiveness.

History of Nowruz - Parvaz Aram Abi

Another interesting Persian customs in Nowruz is Haft-seen tabletop (Sofreh) arrangement of seven symbolic items that all starting with the letter of “س”, the Persian alphabet. These items include:

  • Sabzeh- wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprout growing in a dish- symbolizing rebirth;
  • Samanu- sweet pudding made from wheat germ- symbolized affluence;
  • Seer-garlic- symbolizing the medicine and health;
  • Senjed- dried Oleaster Wild Olive Fruit, symbolized love;
  • Seeb-apple- symbolizing beauty;
  • Samaq- Sumac fruit- symbolizing ( the color of ) sunrise
  • Serkeh- vinegar- symbolized old age and patience.

nowruz-haft-seen-History of Nowruz - Parvaz Aram Abi

Quran, Divan-e-Hafez (a Persian poetry book), a mirror, a goldfish in bowl, painted eggs, coins as a symbol of wealth, candles for each member of family, a bowl of water, wheat or bread are the other items that can be seen in Persian Haft-Seen tabletop.

Other beauty customs among Iranian is presenting gifts by the older member of a family to other ones, which has established in Sassanid era. Visiting the one another (mostly limited to families, friends, and neighbors) is the other beauty custom in these days which are usually reciprocated. Typically, elder ones would be visited by the younger ones and then elders return their visit later.

  Holidays of the New Year last 13 days and in the day of 13th called “Sizdah-Bedar” people go out and try to spend an enjoyable time with their families or friends in the heart of nature.

Sizdah-Bedar - History of Nowruz - Parvaz Aram Abi

Traditional heralds of the Nowruz are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz who appear annually in the streets to celebrate Nowruz. Amu Nowruz bring children gifts like his Christian counterpart Santa Claus and Haji Firuz while covering his face with soot and clad in bright red cloths and dancing through the streets and singing traditional songs are heraling arrival of the Nowruz.