Nowruz (Persian: نوروز Nowruz, [nouˈɾuːz]; literally "new day") is the name of the Iranian New Year's Day, also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups.
Growing wheatgrass is one of the most common traditional preparations for Nowruz.
|Observed by|| Iran|
China (by Tajiks and Turkic peoples)
India (by Iranis, Parsis and some Indian Muslims)
Iraq (by Kurds and Turkmens)
|Type||National, ethnic, international|
|Significance||New Year holiday|
|Date||March 19, 20, or 21|
|2018 date||Tuesday 20 March 2018|
at 16:15 UTC *
|2019 date||Wednesday 20 March 2019|
at 21:58 UTC *
|2020 date||Friday 20 March 2020|
at 03:50 UTC *
|2021 date||Saturday 20 March 2021|
at 09:37 UTC *
|Norooz, Nawrouz, Newroz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz|
|Country||Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan|
|Region||Asia and the Pacific|
|Inscription||2016 (4th session)|
Despite its Iranian and Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by diverse communities. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. 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.
The first day of the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 21 March. In the 11th century CE the Iranian calendar was reformed in order to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowruz, at the vernal equinox. Accordingly, the definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Tusi was the following: "the first day of the official New Year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon." Nowruz is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar.
In the Shahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year's Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. Followers of those calendars (some Zoroastrians in Pakistan and India) celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year's Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti, the day of penitence".
The word Nowruz is a combination of Persian words now, (English: new) and ruz (English: day). Pronunciation varies among Persian dialects, with Eastern dialects using the pronunciation IPA: [næuˈɾoːz], western dialects IPA: [nouˈɾuːz], and Tehranis IPA: [noːˈɾuːz]. A variety of spelling variations for the word nowruz exist in English-language usage, including novruz, nowruz, nauruz and newroz.
Charshanbe Suri (Persian: چارشنبه سوری, translit. Čāršanbe Suri; Kurdish: Çarşema Sor; Azerbaijani: Çərşənbə Bayramı) is a prelude to the New Year. In Iran, it is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. It is usually celebrated in the evening by performing rituals such as jumping over bonfires and lighting off firecrackers and fireworks.
In Azerbaijan, where the preparation for Novruz usually begins a month earlier, the festival is held every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday of Novruz. Each Tuesday, people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind. On the holiday eve, the graves of relatives are visited and tended.
Iranians sing the poetic line "my yellow is yours, your red is mine" (Persian: سرخی تو از من، زردی من از تو, translit. zardi ye man az to, sorkhi ye to az man) to the fire during the festival, asking the fire to take away ill-health and problems and replace them with warmth, health, and energy. Trail mix and berries are also served during the celebration.
Spoon banging (قاشق زنی) is a tradition observed on the eve of Charshanbe Suri, similar to the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating. In Iran, people wearing disguises and go door-to-door banging spoons against plates or bowls and receive packaged snacks. In Azerbaijan, children slip around to their neighbors' homes and apartments on the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, knock at the doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds, hiding nearby to wait for candies, pastries and nuts.
The ritual of jumping over fire has continued in Armenia in the feast of Trndez, which is a feast of purification in the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian Catholic Church, celebrated forty days after Jesus's birth.
In Iran, the Nowruz holidays last thirteen days. On the thirteenth day of the New Year, Iranians leave their houses to enjoy nature and picnic outdoors, as part of the Sizdebedar ceremony. The greenery grown for the Haft-sin setting is thrown away, particularly into a running water. It is also customary for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the leaves of the greenery before discarding it, expressing a wish to find a partner. Another custom associated with Sizdah bedar is the playing of jokes and pranks, similar to April Fools' Day
History and originEdit
There exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology.
The Shahnameh credits the foundation of Nowruz to the mythical Iranian King Jamshid, who saves mankind from a winter destined to kill every living creature. Jamshid may symbolise the transition of the Proto-Iranians from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to animal husbandry and a more settled life. To defeat the killer winter, Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat, shining like the Sun. The world's creatures gathered and scattered jewels around him and proclaimed that this was the New Day (Now Ruz). This was the first day of Farvardin, which is the first month of the Iranian calendar.
Although it is not clear whether Proto-Indo-Iranians celebrated a feast as the first day of the calendar, there are indications that Iranians may have observed the beginning of both autumn and spring, respectively related to the harvest and the sowing of seeds, for the celebration of the New Year. Mary Boyce and Frantz Grenet explain the traditions for seasonal festivals and comment: "It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Iranians to develop their own spring festival into an established New Year feast, with the name Navasarda "New Year" (a name which, though first attested through Middle Persian derivatives, is attributed to the Achaemenian period)." Since the communal observations of the ancient Iranians appear in general to have been seasonal ones, and related to agriculture, "it is probable that they traditionally held festivals in both autumn and spring, to mark the major turning points of the natural year."
Nowruz is partly rooted in the tradition of Iranian religions, such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. In Mithraism, festivals had a deep linkage with the Sun's light. The Iranian festivals such as Mehrgan (autumnal equinox), Tirgan, and the eve of Chelle ye Zemestan (winter solstice) also had an origin in the Sun god (Surya). Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism is the first monotheistic religion that emphasizes broad concepts such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Iran. In Zoroastrianism, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the six Gahambar festivals and Nowruz, which occurs at the spring equinox. According to Mary Boyce, "It seems a reasonable surmise that Nowruz, the holiest of them all, with deep doctrinal significance, was founded by Zoroaster himself"; although there is no clear date of origin. Between sunset on the day of the sixth Gahambar and sunrise of Nowruz, Hamaspathmaedaya (later known, in its extended form, as Frawardinegan; and today known as Farvardigan) was celebrated. This and the Gahambars are the only festivals named in the surviving text of the Avesta.
The 10th-century scholar Biruni, in his work Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa'il Sina'at al-Tanjim, provides a description of the calendars of various nations. Besides the Iranian calendar, various festivals of Greeks, Jews, Arabs, Sabians, and other nations are mentioned in the book. In the section on the Iranian calendar, he mentions Nowruz, Sadeh, Tirgan, Mehrgan, the six Gahambars, Farvardigan, Bahmanja, Esfand Armaz and several other festivals. According to him, "It is the belief of the Iranians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion." The Persian historian Gardizi, in his work titled Zayn al-Akhbār, under the section of the Zoroastrians festivals, mentions Nowruz (among other festivals) and specifically points out that Zoroaster highly emphasized the celebration of Nowruz and Mehrgan.
Although the word Nowruz is not recorded Achaemenid inscriptions, there is a detailed account by Xenophon of a Nowruz celebration taking place in Persepolis and the continuity of this festival in the Achaemenid tradition. Nowruz was an important day during the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BCE) Kings of the different Achaemenid nations would bring gifts to the King of Kings. The significance of the ceremony was such that King Cambyses II's appointment as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the referred annual Achaemenid festival.
In 539 BC, the Jews came under Iranian rule, thus exposing both groups to each other's customs. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the story of Purim as told in the Book of Esther is adapted from an Iranian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens, suggesting that Purim may be an adoption of Iranian New Year. A specific novella is not identified and Encyclopædia Britannica itself notes that "no Jewish texts of this genre from the Persian period are extant, so these new elements can be recognized only inferentially". Purim is celebrated within a few weeks of Nowruz as the date of Purim is based on a lunar calendar, while Nowruz occurs at the spring equinox. It is possible that the Jews and Iranians of the time may have shared or adopted similar customs for these holidays.
Arsacid and Sassanid periodsEdit
Nowruz was the holiday of Arsacid dynastic empires who ruled Iran (248 BCE–224 CE) and the other areas ruled by the Arsacid dynasties outside of Parthia (such as the Arsacid dynasties of Armenia and Iberia). There are specific references to the celebration of Nowruz during the reign of Vologases I (51–78 CE), but these include no details. Before Sassanids established their power in Western Asia around 300 CE, Parthians celebrated Nowruz in autumn, and the first of Farvardin began at the autumn equinox. During the reign of the Parthian dynasty, the spring festival was Mehrgan, a Zoroastrian and Iranian festival celebrated in honor of Mithra.
Extensive records on the celebration of Nowruz appear following the accession of Ardashir I, the founder of the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE). Under the Sassanid emperors, Nowruz was celebrated as the most important day of the year. Most royal traditions of Nowruz, such as royal audiences with the public, cash gifts, and the pardoning of prisoners, were established during the Sassanid era and persisted unchanged until modern times.
After the Muslim conquestEdit
Nowruz, along with the mid-winter celebration Sadeh, survived the Muslim conquest of Persia of 650CE. Other celebrations such the Gahambars and Mehrgan were eventually side-lined or only observed by Zoroastrians. Nowruz became the main royal holiday during the Abbasid period.
Following the demise of the caliphate and the subsequent re-emergence of Iranian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Nowruz became an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sassanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the caliphate. The Iranian Buyid ruler 'Adud al-Dawla (r. 949-83) customarily welcomed Nowruz in a majestic hall, decked with gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers. The King would sit on the royal throne, and the court astronomer would come forward, kiss the ground, and congratulate him on the arrival of the New Year. The king would then summon musicians and singers, and invited his friends to gather and enjoy a great festive occasion.
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.
Nowruz was added to the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010. To commemorate the UN recognition, Iran unveiled a commemorative postage stamp during the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran on Saturday, 27 March 2010.
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House cleaning and shoppingEdit
House cleaning, or shaking the house (Persian: خانه تکانی, translit. xāne tekāni) is commonly done before the arrival of Nowruz. People start preparing for Nowruz with a major spring cleaning of their homes and by buying new clothes to wear for the New Year, as well the purchase of flowers. The hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous.
Parsis adorn their houses with different auspicious symbols; namely, stars, butterflies, birds and fish; and on the day of Navroz, they dress in their new and best clothes and put on gold and silver kushtis and caps. They decorate the doors and windows with garlands of roses and jasmine, and use colored powders for creating patterns known as rangoli on their steps and thresholds. Fish and floral motifs are a favorite among rangolis and considered highly auspicious.
Visiting family and friendsEdit
During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of visit family, friends and neighbours. Typically, the young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.
Typically, before the arrival of Nowruz, family members gather around the Haft-sin table and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year. Traditionally, the Haft-sin (Persian: هفتسین, seven foods beginning with the letter sin (س)) are:
- Sabze (Persian: سبزه) – wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
- Samanu (Persian: سمنو) – sweet pudding made from wheat germ
- Persian olive (Persian: سنجد, translit. senjed)
- Vinegar (Persian: سرکه, translit. serke)
- Apple (Persian: سیب, translit. sib)
- Garlic (Persian: سیر, translit. sir)
- Sumac (Persian: سماق, translit. somāq)
These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun, and Moon. The Haft-sin table may also include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, hyacinth, and traditional confectioneries. A "book of wisdom" such as the Quran, Bible, Avesta, the Šāhnāme of Ferdowsi, or the divān of Hafez may also be included. Haft-sin's origins are not clear. The practice is believed to have been popularized over the past 100 years.
In Afghanistan, people prepare Haft Mēwa (Dari: هفت میوه, English: seven fruits) for Nauruz, a mixture of seven different dried fruits and nuts (such as raisins, Persian olives, pistachios, hazelnuts, prunes, walnut, and almonds) served in syrup.
Khoncha (Azerbaijani: Xonça) is the traditional display of Novruz in the Republic of Azerbaijan. It consists of a big silver or copper tray, with a tray of green, sprouting wheat (samani) in the middle and a dyed egg for each member of the family arranged around it. The table should be with at least seven dishes.
Amu Nowruz and Haji FiruzEdit
Amu Nowruz brings children gifts, much like his counterpart Santa Claus. He is the husband of Nane Sarma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can meet each other only once a year. He is depicted as an elderly silver-haired man with a long beard carrying a walking stick, wearing a felt hat, a long cloak of blue canvas, a sash, giveh, and linen trousers.
Haji Firuz, a character with his face and hands covered in soot, clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine. In the traditional songs, he introduces himself as a serf trying to cheer people whom he refers to as his lords.
In the folklore of Afghanistan, Kampirak and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people. He is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature yielding the forces of winter. The tradition is observed in central provinces, specially Bamyan and Daykundi.
Places where Nowruz is a public holiday include:
Nowruz is also celebrated by Iranian communities in Europe and the Americas, including Los Angeles, Toronto, Cologne and London. But because Los Angeles is prone to devastating fires, there are very strict fire codes in the city. No fires are allowed even on one's own property. Usually, Iranians living in Southern California go to the beaches to celebrate the event where it is permissible to build fires. On 15 March 2010, the House of Representatives of the United States passed the Nowruz Resolution (H.Res. 267), by a 384–2 vote, "Recognizing the cultural and historical significance of Nowruz, ... ."
Nowruz is two-week celebration that marks the beginning of the New Year in Iran's official Solar Hejri calendar. The celebration includes four public holidays from the first to the fourth day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar, usually beginning on 21 March. On the Eve of Nowruz, the fire festival Chaharshanbe Suri is celebrated.
Following the 1979 Revolution, some radical elements from the Islamic government attempted to suppress Nowruz, considering it a pagan holiday and a distraction from Islamic holidays. Nowruz has been politicized, with political leaders making annual Nowruz speeches.
In Azerbaijan, Novruz celebrations go on for several days and inclued festive public dancingfolk music, and sporting competitions. In rural areas, crop holidays are also marked.
In Afghanistan, the festival of Gul-i-Surkh (Dari: گل سرخ, English: red flower) is the principal festival for Nauruz. It is celebrated in Mazar-i-Sharif during the first 40 days of the year, when red tulips grow in the green plains and over the hills surrounding the city. People from all over the country travel to Mazar-i-Sharif to attend the Nauruz festivals. Buzkashi tournaments are held during the Gul-i-Surkh festival in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul and other northern Afghan cities.
Jahenda Bala (Dari: جهنده بالا English: raising) is celebrated on the first day of the New Year It is a religious ceremony performed at the Blue Mosque of Mazar-i-Sharif by raising a special banner resembling the Derafsh Kaviani royal standard. It is attended by high-ranking government officials such as the Vice-President, Ministers, and Provincial Governors and is the biggest recorded Nawroz gathering, with up to 200,000 people from all over Afghanistan attending.
In the festival of Dehqān (Dari: دهقان English: farmer), also celebrated on the first day of the New Year, farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural production. In recent years, this activity only happens in Kabul and other major cities where the mayor and other governmental officials attend.
During the Taliban regime of 1996–2001, Nauruz was banned as "an ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship".
Since the extinction during the 19th century, Nowruz is not celebrated by Armenians and is not a public holiday in Armenia. However, it is celebrated in Armenia by tens of thousands of Iranian tourists who visit Armenia with relative ease. The influx of tourists from Iran accelerated since around 2010–11. In 2010 alone, around 27,600 Iranians spent Nowruz in capital Yerevan.
Nowruz is not celebrated by Georgians, but it has been a public holiday in Georgia since 2010. It is widely celebrated by the country's large Azerbaijani minority (~7% of the total population) as well as by Iranians living in Georgia. Every year, large festivities are held in the capital Tbilisi, as well as in areas with a significant number of Azerbaijanis, such as the Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, Shida Kartli, and Mtskheta-Mtianeti regions. Georgian politicians have attended the festivities in the capital over the years, and have congratulated the Nowruz-observing ethnic groups and nationals in Georgia on the day of Nowruz.
Newroz (or Nevruz) is largely considered as a potent symbol of Kurdish identity in Turkey, even if there are some Turks (including Turkmens) celebrating the festival. The Kurds of Turkey celebrate this feast between 18th till 21 March. Kurds gather into fairgrounds mostly outside the cities to welcome spring. Women wear colored dresses and spangled head scarves and young men wave flags of green, yellow and red, the historic colors of Kurdish people. They hold this festival by lighting fire and dancing around it. Newroz celebrations are usually organised by Kurdish cultural associations and pro-Kurdish political parties. Thus, the Democratic Society Party was a leading force in the organisation of the 2006 Newroz events throughout Turkey. In recent years, the Newroz celebration gathers around 1 million participants in Diyarbakır, the biggest city of the Kurdish dominated Southeastern Turkey. As the Kurdish Newroz celebrations in Turkey often are theater for political messages, the events are frequently criticized for being political rallies rather than cultural celebrations.
Until 2005, the Kurdish population of Turkey could not celebrate their New Year openly. "Thousands of people have been detained in Turkey, as the authorities take action against suspected supporters of the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK. The holiday is now official in Turkey after international pressure on the Turkish government to lift culture bans. Turkish government renamed the holiday Nevroz in 1995. In the recent years, limitations on expressions of Kurdish national identity, including the usage of Kurdish in the public sphere, have been considerably relaxed.
In Syria, the Kurds dress up in their national dress and celebrate the New Year. According to Human Rights Watch, the Kurds have had to struggle to celebrate Newroz, and in the past the celebration has led to violent oppression, leading to several deaths and mass arrests. The government has stated that the Newroz celebrations will be tolerated as long as they do not become political demonstrations of the treatment of the Kurds. During the Newroz celebrations in 2008, three Kurds were shot dead by Syrian security forces.
Kurds in the diaspora also celebrate the New Year; for example, Kurds in Australia celebrate Newroz, not only as the beginning of the new year, but also as the Kurdish National Day. The Kurds in Finland celebrate the new year as a way of demonstrating their support for the Kurdish cause. Also in London, organizers estimated that 25000 people celebrated Newroz during March 2006.
Followers of the Zoroastrian faith include Nowruz in their religious calendar, as do followers of other faiths. Shia literature refers to the merits of the day of Nowruz; the Day of Ghadir took place on Nowruz; and the fatwas of major Shia scholars recommend fasting. Nowruz is also a holy day for Sufis, Bektashis, Ismailis, Alawites, Alevis, Babis and adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.
Naw-Rúz is one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá'í Faith worldwide. It is the first day of the Bahá'í calendar, occurring on the vernal equinox around March 21. The Bahá'í calendar is composed of 19 months, each of 19 days, and each of the months is named after an attribute of God; similarly each of the nineteen days in the month also are named after an attribute of God. The first day and the first month were given the attribute of Bahá, an Arabic word meaning splendour or glory, and thus the first day of the year was the day of Bahá in the month of Bahá. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, explained that Naw-Rúz was associated with the Most Great Name of God, and was instituted as a festival for those who observed the Nineteen day fast.
The day is also used to symbolize the renewal of time in each religious dispensation. `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son and successor, explained that significance of Naw-Rúz in terms of spring and the new life it brings. He explained that the equinox is a symbol of the messengers of God and the message that they proclaim is like a spiritual springtime, and that Naw-Rúz is used to commemorate it.
As with all Bahá'í holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Rúz, and Bahá'ís all over the world celebrate it as a festive day, according to local custom. Persian Bahá'ís still observe many of the Iranian customs associated with Nowruz such as the Haft-sin, but American Bahá'í communities, for example, may have a potluck dinner, along with prayers and readings from Bahá'í scripture.
Twelver Shia faith and Shia Ismaili faithEdit
It has been said that Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Twelver Shia imam, has explained Nowruz and said: "In Nowruz God made a covenant with His servants to worship Him and not to allow any partner for Him. To welcome, His messengers and obey their rulings. This day is the first day that the fertile wind blow and the flowers on the earth appeared. The archangel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet, and it is the day that Abraham broke the idols. The day Prophet Muhammad held Ali on his shoulders to destroy the Quraishie's idols in the house of God, the Kaaba."
The day upon which Nowruz falls has been recommended as a day of fasting for Twelver Shia Muslims by Shia scholars, including Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali al-Sistani. The day also assumes special significance for Shias as it has been said that it was on 21 March 656 AD that the first Shia Imam, Ali, assumed the office of caliphate.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nowruz.|
- Nowruz at Encyclopædia Britannica
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- The Persian Nowruz by Iraj Bashiri
- Nowruz at [parstimes.com]
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