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Nowruz In Iran

Nowruz

Nowruz, an Iranian festival, is the most important spring festival since ancient times. There are many historical statements about the formation of Nowruz. It is noteworthy that the Nowruz festival was inherited from the Aryan ancestors of modern Iran, and has been celebrated since before Zoroaster. Indeed, it is probable that the Nowruz ceremony has been practiced continuously from the 13 or 14 century BC.
There are stories and legends in which Jamshid, the mythological king, is named as the founder of Nowruz, though certainly some historical events have gradually turned into legends. Following the proposal from the Republic of Azerbaijan, the United Nations General Assembly in a meeting in Esfand 4, 1388 (February 23, 2010) accepted March 21 as the World Day of the Nowruz ceremony and entered it in its calendar. In the text ratified by the United Nations General Assembly, Nowruz is defined as a 3,000 year old ceremony that more than 300 million people celebrate annually.

The word Nowruz in the Latin alphabet

The word Nowruz is spelled differently in foreign texts. The first part is variably written as No, Now, Nov and Naw and the second part as Ruz, Rooz or Rouz. Sometimes it’s written as one word and sometimes as two. But in Dr. Ehsan Yarshater’s (the founder of Iranica Encyclopedia) opinion, the best spelling for the word according to phonological rules, is Nowruz. This is the spelling used by IONESCO and many political texts.

Suri celebration or Chaharshanbe Suri

Today, Iranian people hold Chaharshanbe Suri in different ways. While every region celebrates it in its own way, they are all totally different from the original ceremony. It could be argued that in larger cities the original customs of the Suri celebration are about to be forgotten and the new forms bear little resemblance to the original celebration. However, there are still links between Chaharshanbe Suri and the ancient Suri celebration in some counties, small towns and villages. Research hasn’t found any historical evidence about the exact day on which the Suri celebration was held in ancient times, and it’s unlikely the celebration was nominated for a particular day as the Iranian calendar didn’t consist of a seven day week. The calendar that is used today in which each month is divided into four seven-day weeks was adopted when Arab tribes attacked Iran. Before that Iranian months were divided into five five-week days which were called Panja and they were like the division used in ancient Egypt and Babylon. The ancient Iranian calendar included twelve months of thirty days. There was no month with thirty one days but in the leap year there were five more days inspired by the names of Gathas called Panja, khashma, Panjeya Dozdida, Khamseya Mostaregha, Gah, and Andargah, Yahizak, Panja va. So in ancient Iran the Suri celebration could not have been on Wednesday night because there was no Saturday, Wednesday or Friday.

Nowruz customs

The customs of Nowruz vary from one country to another. For instance, in Afghanistan people place seven different fruit on the table, while in Iran seven things beginning with the sound /s/.

The ancient Iranian Nowruz Ceremony

The customs and conventions of Nowruz are rooted in ancient times and are interesting demographically. Iranian people believed that the destinies of individuals and the world were determined during Nowruz. It is said that Zoroaster had a secret conversation with God and Nowruz was the day to distribute happiness to all people in the world, Which is why Iranians called it the Day of Hope. A few days before Nowruz, the ancient Iranians planted seeds in the columns of raw mud brick and believed that their flourishing was lucky and that the seeds blessed and fertilized the New Year. The seeds they planted were wheat, barley, rice, beans, lentils, millet, peas, sesame, lanatus, corn and vetch. They planted seven grains of each as the symbol of seven Emshaspand (Ahuramazda’s pure attributes) or twelve as the holy number of the months.
Seven has always been a sacred number among Iranians as well as in most of the religions. Haft Seen is a very old tradition and it goes back to the Sassanian era. Some experts think that Haft Seen originated from Haft Seeni (seven trays of seven frames) on the Nowruz table and later “i” was omitted. The things on the table were water and greenery (symbols of brightness and prosperity), fireplace (a symbol of the stability of light and heat; later changed to a candle and lamp), milk (a symbol of birth and resurrection), egg (a symbol of race and the zygote), a looking glass (a symbol of transparency and serenity), oleaster (symbols of love, birth and fertility), apple (a symbol of the mysteriousness of love), pomegranate (a symbol of sacredness), newly minted coins (symbols of blessing and wealth), goldfish (a symbol of the past month, Esfand), sour orange (a symbol of the globe), pussy willow flower (the specific flower of Esfand), rose water (a remnant of the tradition of Water Pouring), bread baked from seven seeds, date, cheese, sugar, Barsam (branches from the sacred trees of pomegranate, willow, olive and fig in parcels of three, seven or twelve) and the Holy Book, the Quran.
Chaharshanbe Suri, a welcoming celebration to Nowruz: Ancient Iranians believed that light was the symbol of God and appreciated the sun and fire because they were sources of light and brightness. The word Chaharshanbe Suri consists of two parts: Chaharshanbe (Wednesday, the last Wednesday of the year) and Suri or Surik (red). Red Wednesday was the main introduction to the Nowruz festival. In different places of Iran people celebrated Chaharshanbe Suri according to their own customs and conventions. What all the customs shared was the lighting of a fire. All the different dominations believed that fire was a sign of victory and cheerfulness. At sunset people made seven or three (symbol of the three praise-worthy temperaments) piles of bushes and when the sun vanished completely they set the piles on fire to let them take the place of the sun. These fires were set in the desert, vacant lots or in the yard or roof of people’s houses. People ran and jumped over the flames and sang songs asking for blessing, health, fertility and purity.
The creation of the world: The spring rain, blossoming and growth of leaves on trees, drawn out days and increased daylight led ancient Iranians to believe that Nowruz was the time when the world was created. Count-down to New Year: At the count-down to New Year all members of the family wore their new clothes and sat at the Haft Seen table. Grandparents sat at the heads of the table and parents and children sat beside them. It is believed that at the time of count-down to New Year everybody had to look at the looking glass. Then the oldest member of the family read some verses from the Holy Quran. When the count-down was over a cannon was fired which announced the beginning of the New Year, and the family kissed and congratulated each other for the New Year. Older people gave coins or bills which were put in the Quran as a gift to younger members of the family. If the beginning of the New Year was during the day, the young people went directly to their older relatives’ houses and ate the first lunch or dinner of the New Year with them.
Farvardin 6 (March 25), the Great Nowruz: Farvardin 6 was a special day for Iranian people and called the Great Nowruz or the Great Feast. Many things are thought to have taken place on this day. The ancient Iranians who thought that Farvardin 1 was the beginning of the creation of the world believed that God finished his creation on Farvardin 6. Besides, there is a myth saying that this was the day Kei-Khosrow, the King who was fed up with the world and longed to go to the next one, was exalted to the other world after five days of praying. It was also the day to spread happiness among people and accordingly called Hope Day.
It is also the day of the founding of Iran. Fereidun distributed the world among his three sons: Salm, Tur and Iraj on the same day. Arash the Bowman determined the border between Iran and Turan by firing an arrow, losing his life in the process. This is the day God blew the soul into the human body. All these myths contribute to Farvardin 6 being called the Great Nowruz.
Water Pouring Festival and the convention of washing: Water and the need for rain has always been the centre point of sacredness in Nowruz customs. Water is one of the most important things on the Haft Seen table. It plays the main role in all Nowruz conventions including: planting greenery, washing, ablutions, splashing water and putting greenery in water. All these conventions are about hoping for enough rain or water in the New Year for cultivation and habitability.
In ancient Iran there was a tradition to wake up at the Nowruz dawn and wash in a pond or canal. People sometimes poured stream or river water over themselves to cleanse their bodies from contaminants and misfortune. People say that the reason for this custom was that once it didn’t rain for a long time in Iran and when it suddenly rained very heavily people began splashing water on their bodies as a blessed. The convention continued and every year people participate in the water pouring celebration by splashing water on each other.
Sizdah Be Dar, seeing off Nowruz: Sizdah Be Dar Festival was one of the most prominent customs among ancient Iranians. It was unacceptable to be sad on that day and people wanted to seek refuge in nature and finish Sizdah Be Dar to go back to their usual life as soon as possible. Placing greenery in water is one of the customs of Sizdah Be Dar which is a sign of cultivation.

Who is Haji Firuz?

Haji Firuz is a man in red who wanders the streets singing and dancing. He plays a tambourine and one or two other people wander with him to spread happiness and joy, and in return people give him money, sweets and other gifts. There is no historical evidence about the appearance of Haji Firuz, but in the texts from all over Iran about Nowruz customs, he and uncle Nowruz are mentioned. In every region once controlled by Iranians people know Haji Firuz and uncle Nowruz. Haji Firuz is like a flag bearer who announces the arrival of spring time. He blackens his face, wears red and struts and dances around the towns and villages. Uncle Nowruz is an old man wearing the traditional clothes of the ancient Iranians and is the representative of the New Year. Uncle Nowruz gives presents like money, sweets and painted eggs to children.

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