New Year in Iran: Norouz

New Year in Iran: Norouz

On the first day of Norouz, Iranian families gather around the Haft Sin, or “Seven S’s” table. Families take pride in the beautiful arrangement of seven items that start with the sound of S in Persian. They symbolize the hopes for a successful and happy new year.

Can you name some of the things on the table in this photo? Scroll down to find out what they are and what each item means!

In Iran, the old year goes out with a bang. Children run through the streets. They clang on pots and pans. Knocking on the neighbor’s doors, they ask for sweets. This tradition is called qashogh-zany or “spoon beating.” Some children wrap themselves in shrouds. These are long cloths used in burials. By dressing in them, children imitate the visits of their ancestors’ spirits. It is said that the spirits come in the last days of the year.

As the spring equinox approaches, fires bid good-bye to the old year in a tradition known as Chaher Shanbeh Suri. Families gather around small fires in the streets and alleys. They jump over the flames singing traditional songs and celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.

The Haft Sin Table

Iranians welcome spring with sparkling clean houses and a new set of clothes. On their Haft Sin table, families include the traditional seven items below. Many families also include a copy of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. A bowl of orange goldfish brings good luck.

 Candles light the table Back up to table

 Painted eggs symbolize new life Back up to table

These are the traditional items on the Haft Sin table. Each one has a special meaning:

 Senjed: Dried fruit of the oleaster tree (love) Back up to table

 Sir: Garlic (protection from illness and evil) Back up to table

 Serkeh: Vinegar (longevity and patience) Back up to table

 Sonbol: Hyacinth flower (blossoming spring) Back up to table

 Sekkeh: Coins (prosperity) Back up to table

 Sabzeh: Green wheat sprouts (abundance) Back up to table

and Samanu: Sweet pudding (sweetness of life)

If some are missing, these two items can substitute for any of the seven:

 Somaq: Sumac berries (a new dawn) Back up to table

 Sib: Apples (beauty and health) Back up to table

Over the twelve days of Norouz, families visit friends, families, and neighbors. Some people hold large parties. Everyone shares pastries, cookies, nuts, fruit and tea. Gestures of affection and thoughtfulness will ensure a full and happy year. Bickering and selfishness during Norouz will bring unhappiness. On the thirteenth day, families end Norouz with a drive to the countryside. They welcome the beauty of spring with a picnic.

Iranians have been celebrating Norouz for over three thousand years. The holiday has its roots in the ancient Zoroastrian religion. This religion was once widespread in Western and Central Asia. Believers followed the teachings of the Iranian prophet, Zoroaster. They believed one god created all that was true, good, and orderly. Fire symbolized the the sun, light, and truth. Today, few people practice Zoroastrianism, but Norouz is observed in many countries. It is celebrated in Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Albania, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

Author: Heather Clydesdale. Photo: Delneshin Danaie/flickr