What Is Norooz?


Hello everyone, 

First of all, I want to apologize for my lack of blog posts in the last few weeks. When I got my concussion I had to limit my screen time. But I am back! 

Today I want to talk to all of you about Norooz (also commonly spelled Nowruz or Norouz). On my Instagram story, the high majority of you voted to learn about the Persian thirteen-day holiday.  So here I am venturing away from the usual style blog posts to share a bit of my culture with you. 

General Info About Norooz

Norooz is the Persian New Year celebration. This tradition started during the times of the Persian Empire over 3,000 years ago. It has Zoroastrian origins though now it is a non-ethnic and non-religious celebration for everyone. Norooz literally translates into "New Day" and falls on the first day of Spring. It begins in Spring rather than January because Iran uses a different calendar based on the sun as opposed to the Gregorian calendar that we're used to in the West. This year, we celebrate ringing in the new year 1397 on Tuesday, March 20th.                 

To learn about one of the oldest monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism, click here

Chahar Shanbeh Soori

Fire is the ultimate symbol of purity in Zoroastrianism. On the eve of the last Wednesday of the year (aka Tuesday night), we cleanse ourselves by jumping over bonfires and burning esfand to ward off the evil eye. This night is called Chahar Shanbeh Soori which translates to Eve of Red Wednesday. As we jump over the fire and wish for things in the New year to come, we chant in Farsi. 

"Sorkhi-ye to az man" [Give me your beautiful red color] and "Zardi-e man az to" [Take back my sickly pallor]. 

To see images of Iranian women jumping over bonfires in Tehran click here and here. To watch an Iranian music video that shows some of the Chahar Shanbeh Soori festivities click here

The Haft Seen

Other preparations for Norooz include cleaning the house (my least favorite part) and buying a new outfit (my favorite part obviously) to welcome the new year. Then of course, is creating the Sofreh Haft Seen, a tabletop display. Haft Seen translates to "seven S's." So the Sofreh Haft Seen spread must have seven items that start with S. Usually, we include other items in the sofreh as well for extra symbolism but the main seven are essential. In my family, selecting our goldfish at our local petshop is the highlight of Norooz.

The Seven Main Items: 

1) Somagh [sumac]: symbolizing the light coming over the dark or sunrise

2) Serkeh [vinegar]: symbolizing age and patience 

3) Senjed [dried lotus tree fruit]: symbolizing love 

4) Samanoo [sweet pudding]: symbolizing affluence 

5) Sabzeh [sprouts]: symbolizing rebirth 

6) Sib [apple]: symbolizing beauty 

7) Sir [garlic]: symbolizing health 

Other items in the sofreh include: sonbol [hyacinth flowers] to symbolize Spring, sekkeh [coins] to symbolize wealth and prosperity, mirrors to represent reflection, candles for enlightenment, tokhmeh morgh [decorated eggs] for fertility, mahi [goldfish] to represent life, gol-e ab [rose water], and shirini [sweets] to represent sweetness. Religious families also display the Qur'an but my family and many other secular families use a Hafez poetry book instead. My mom lays out my grandfather's antique copy with his handwritten notes in the margins.

Another favorite Norooz tradition especially for the younger generations is giving out money. Each person gives some brand new cash to everyone in their family younger than them. Remember, there is no Christmas in Iran so this is essentially the equivalent to all the kids there—especially if you are the youngest. In my family, we use our Hafez book to divine what the coming year will be like. When celebrating in Seattle, my khaleh [maternal aunt] Sousan puts the cash in random pages of Hafez. Whichever bill we draw, the first verse on the page it bookmarks will tell us what to expect for the new year. 

One of the most important things in Persian culture is family. At the end of the day, Norooz is all about bringing families together and celebrating new beginnings. It is a bit hard for me to be away from all of my family in Seattle and all of the traditions we have. However it is a time to celebrate new beginnings, and I am excited to rejoice in my new life in England by making new memories with my family in London. Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak! 

Love, Rhoya

Do you have favorite cultural traditions with your family? If so, I would love to hear about them in the comments below! 

Click here for your Norooz countdown. 

Click here to watch a video about the history of Norooz and here to watch a video about the traditions of Norooz. 

Click here to listen to the Norooz anthem sung by Iranian legend, Hayendeh. The video is quite cheesy, but you get to see a sofreh haft seen. Or even better: listen to this Norooz YouTube playlist while you clean your house and set up your haft seen.