European Centre for Zoroastrian Studies

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Norouz, the Persian Newyear

LONDON, (CAIS) -- Today, th 20th March, 2010 the Earth enters the spring equinox and Iranians all over the world, irrespective of their religious creed or ethnicity, celebrate Norouz which lasts thirteen days according to the millennia-old Iranian tradition.
For Iranian peoples Norouz (also, Noruz, Nowruz, Nevruz, Newruz, Navruz) which literally (in Persian) means the 'dawn of a new day' is considered to be the most important celebration of the year; it is the greatest symbol of Iranian cultural and national identity, which has outlived all adversities and adversaries.
Today Iranian celebration of Norouz is celebrated not only in Iran, but also in former Iranian territories, known as the Greater-Iran or the Persianate-Societies[ including, Armenia, Arran (nowadays the Republic of Azerbaijan), Afghanistan, Bahrain, Dubai, Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Norouz tradition has also been stretched beyond Iran’s cultural sphere and it is now celebrated by many non-Iranians in the Middle East, Crimea and the Balkan Peninsula.
“Iranian oral tradition takes Norouz as far back as 15,000 years ago, before the last ice age. Pre-historic and mythical Iranian King Jamshid (Avestan Yima) is said to be the person who introduced Norouz celebrations to symbolise the transition of the proto-Indo-Iranians from hunter gathering to pastoralism. The Historians however, believe the celebration began circa 3,700 years ago with the prophet Zarathushtra and his Divine revelation (daenā)
Some twelfth centuries later, in 487 BCE, Darius the Great of the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenids (550-330 BCE) celebrated Norouz at his newly built ceremonial capital, the Persepolis. Recent research shows that the Persepolis was built not only as the seat of government for the Achaemenid kings, but also as a center for receptions and ceremonial festivities especially Norouz,[4][4] since it was the place the Achaemenid emperors received gifts on Norouz from his subjects from all over the Persian Empire. The walls of the great royal palace depict scenes of the celebrations
Iranians under the Parthian dynasty (248 BCE - 224 CE) continued celebrating Norouz but we do not know the details -- it should have, more or less, followed the Achaemenid pattern. During the Sasanian dynasty (224-651 CE), preparations began at least twenty five days before Norouz. Twelve pillars of mud-bricks, each dedicated to one month of the year were erected in the imperial court. Various vegetable seeds--wheat, barley, lentils, beans, and others--were sown on top of the pillars, they grew into luxurious greens by the New Years Day. The pillars were removed on the 16th day and the festival came to a close. The occasion was celebrated on a lower level by all peoples throughout the empire.”[6][6] Since then, the peoples of the Iranian culture, whether Zoroastrian, Jews, Christians, Muslims or other faiths have celebrated Norouz precisely at the time of vernal equinox, the first day of the first month of Farvardin (on about March 20/21).
After the Arab conquest of Iran in 7th century a new ritual, a mixture of old and new traditions added to the New Year ritual known as Chahār Shanbeh Suri, which is celebrated on the Tuesday night (continues to Wednesday) of before Noruz. A bonfire is prepared to celebrate Chahār Shanbeh Suri, ‘Ember Wednesday’. People of all ages jump over the fire yelling, "Sorkhi-ye to az man; Zardi-ye man az to" (give me your red colour; and take back my sickly pallor), representing the bad fortune being left behind and destroyed by the fire, and prosperity and happiness for the New Year brought by the fire's light, warmth and cleansing power. However, holiday preparations began fifteen days ago with the planting of vegetable seeds in a shallow bowl so the there is several inches of green for the celebration. The family cleans the house wearing new clothes to symbolise purification and the dawning of a new life

On the night of Norouz the family gathers around Norouz table known as haft-seen, which "is prepared with seven objects with the letter 'S' from the Persian alphabet. Apart from seven ‘S’s, number of other items are placed on the spread including a holy scripture revered by the family, or Persian poetry such as Shāhnāmeh (the Book of Kings) and Divān-e Hāfez”[9][9], hard-boiled decorated eggs, a Mirror with lit candles as a symbol of fire and live gold fish in a fish bowl. In the old days they would be returned to the riverbanks, but today most people will keep them

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