History and tradition of Nowruz

History and tradition of Nowruz

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Source: wikipedia.org

Nowruz (from Persian: نوروز‎‎, literally “[The] New Day”) is the name of the Iranian New Year  also known as Persian or Kurdish New Year, celebrated by mostly Iranian peoples worldwide as the beginning of the new year. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in the Balkans , the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It marks the first day of Farvardin month and spring in Iranian calendar.

Nowruz is the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (or northward equinox), which marks the beginning of the spring in the northern hemisphere and usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/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.

Although having Persian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.

HAFTSEEN,
otherwise known as Haft Seen (Persian: هفت‌سین‎‎, the seven seen’s) is a tabletop arrangement of seven symbolic items traditionally displayed at Nowruz, the Persian new year. The haft seen table includes seven items all starting with the letter seen (س) in the Persian alphabet.

The Haft Seen items are:

  1. Sabzeh (سبزه) – wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
  2. Samanu (سمنو) – sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
  3. Senjed (سنجد) – dried oleaster Wild Olive fruit – symbolizing love
  4. Seer (سیر) – garlic – symbolizing medicine
  5. Seeb (سیب) – apple – symbolizing beauty and health
  6. Somāq (سماق) – sumac fruit – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  7. Serkeh (سرکه) – vinegar – symbolizing old-age and patience
  • clay figures, whitewashed (favorites being domestic animals, cows, donkeys, sheep, sscamel, nightingale, peacock, also household objects such as sugar-loaf, bowls, or a three-legged stool). These “bear witness to the triumphant works of creation.”
  • Sabzeh – Sprouts from seven different kinds of seeds
  • Divān of Hafez
  • a mirror
  • a goldfish in a bowl represents life and the end of astral year-picas
  • a low brazier full of fire
  • a lamp
  • sprays of cypress or pine
  • pomegranates
  • painted eggs

Nowruz Tradition and mythology

The celebration has its roots in Ancient Iran . Due to its antiquity, there exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology . In the Zoroastrian tradition, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the Gahambars and Nowruz, which occurs at the spring equinox . According to Mary Boyce.

The Shahnameh dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid , who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature. The mythical Persian King Jamshid (Yima or Yama of the Indo-Iranian lore) perhaps symbolizes the transition of the Indo-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry and a more settled life in human history. In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, he is credited with the foundation of Nowruz. In the Shahnama, Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world’s creatures gathered in wonder about him and scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day or No/Now-Ruz. This was the first day of the month of Farvardin (the first month of the Persian calendar)The Persian scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni of the 10th century CE, in his Persian work “Kitab al-Tafhim li Awa’il Sina’at al-Tanjim” provides a description of the calendar of various nations. Besides the Persian calendar, various festivals of Arabs, Jews, Sabians, Greeks and other nations are mentioned in this book. In the section on the Persian calendar (Persian: تقویم پارسیان‎‎), he mentions Nowruz, Sadeh, Tiregan,Mehregan, the six Gahanbar, Parvardegaan, Bahmanja, Isfandarmazh and several other festivals. According to him: It is the belief of the Persians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion. The Persian historian Abu Saʿīd Gardēzī 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 Mehregan.

 

History

Although it is not clear whether proto-Indo-Iranians celebrated a feast as the first day of the calendar, there are indications that both Iranians and Indians may have observed the beginning of both autumn and spring, related to the harvest and the sowing of seeds, respectively, for the celebration of new year.

Boyce and Grenet explain the traditions for seasonal festivals and comment: “It is possible that the splendor of the Babylonian festivities at this season led the Persians 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 a 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”.

We have reasons to believe that the celebration is much older than that date and was surely celebrated by the people and royalty during the Achaemenid times (555–330 BC). It was, therefore, a highly auspicious occasion for the ancient Iranian peoples. It has been suggested that the famous Persepolis complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and the Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Nowruz. Although there may be no mention of Nowruz in recorded Achaemenid inscriptions (see picture), 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 around the world

Nowruz is celebrated in Greater Iran, Caucasus, Central Asia and by Iranians worldwide. It is a public holiday in Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Also the Canadian parliament by unanimous consent, has passed a bill to add Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada, on March 30, 2009.

Nowruz and the spring equinox

The first day on the Iranian calendar falls on the March equinox, the first day of spring, around 20 March. At the time of the equinox, the sun is observed to be directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator; sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres.

In around the 11th century CE major reforms of the Iranian calendars took place and whose principal purpose were to fix the beginning of the calendar year, i.e. Nowrūz, at the vernal equinox. Accordingly, the definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Ṭūsī was the following: “the first day of the official new year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon”.

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