Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year.
Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities.
Nowruz marks the beginning of spring. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day.The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union Iran was the only country that officially observed the ceremonies of Nowruz. When the Caucasian and Central Asian countries gained independence from the Soviets, they also declared Nowruz as a national holiday. Now it is celebrated in Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikestan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The UN’s General Assembly recognized the International Day of Nowruz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
During the Nowruz holidays people are expected to pay house visits to one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbours).
Typically, on the first day of Nowruz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. While some families add their own variations to the haft-seen (more on those in a bit), there are seven things that are always included:
- Sabzeh: Some kind of sprout or grass that will continue to grow in the weeks leading up to the holiday, for rebirth and renewal
- Senjed: Dried fruit, ideally a sweet fruit from a lotus tree, for love
- Sib: Apples, for beauty and health
- Seer: Garlic, for medicine and taking care of oneself
- Samanu: A sweet pudding, for wealth and fertility
- Serkeh: Vinegar, for the patience and wisdom that comes with aging
- Sumac: A Persian spice made from crushed sour red berries, for the sunrise of a new day
At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, on the very first day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members.