My intention with this post is to share an aspect of my Persian culture in order to inspire you to seek out further knowledge either by asking me directly or using good old Google. I'm tremendously proud of my Persian heritage, please don't hesitate to reach out and ask questions!
Nowruz (The Persian New Year) is a celebration that survived the Muslim conquest in 650 CE of the area known today as Iran.
It is celebrated at the vernal (Spring) equinox (the exact moment the sun crosses the celestial equator equalizing night and day). In our year 2018 (Year 1397 in Iran) the Spring equinox occurred at 11:15am CST. This is also known as the first day of Spring.
However, Persian New Year celebrations begin before the first day of Spring. Spring cleaning, purchasing new clothes, placing the Haft Seen, and Chaharshanbe soori (The Persian Festival of Fire) are some examples.
Chaharshanbe soori (Persian Festival of Fire) is celebrated on the evening of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. It involves celebrators jumping over a bonfire (symbol of purification) while singing: "Sorkhi-ye to az man, Zardi-ye man az to" meaning "Your fiery red color to me, and my sickly yellow paleness to you." This is an ancient purification ritual symbolizing the jumper giving their sickness, paleness and problems to the fire and the fire in return giving you its energy, warmth and vigor.
One of my favorite elements of Nowruz is the setting of the Haft Seen (pictured above). A Haft Seen is a deeply symbolic table placement. Seven items symbolic of renewal and Spring are placed on a decorative tablecloth. Seven represents a lucky number. Also on the Haft Seen table are non-S items that have representations and meaning behind them.
Some examples of the Seven S's are:
1. Sabzeh (greens/sprouts): symbolic for rebirth. This is often placed at the center of the Haft Seen and seen as the most important element.
2. Seeb (apple): symbolizing beauty and health
3. Serkeh (vinegar): symbolizing age and patience
4. Sekeh (coins, preferably gold): symbolizing wealth and prosperity
5. Sonbol (hyacinth flower): symbolizing the coming of Spring
6. Shirin (sweets): symbolizing spreading the sweetness for the year to come
7. Sir (Garlic): symbolizing good health
Non-S items on the table have cultural or historical significance. These items "complete" the Haft Seen table and can be seen placed around the Seven S's.
Examples of these are:
1. Sham (Candles): Technically an S, but I always see this in addition to the Seven S's. One for each child representing enlightenment and happiness.
2. Ayyeneh (Mirror): For self reflection and introspection
3. Tokhmeh Morgh (Decorated Eggs): One for each family member to represent fertility
4. Mahi (A bowl with a goldfish): Representing life and the sign Pisces which the sun is leaving.
5. A crystal bowl of water with an orange in it: Representing the earth floating in space
6. Rose water: Placed on the table to represent its magical cleansing powers
7. A Holy Book or Book of Poetry: We are non-denominational Christian so this book would be the Bible in our family.
You'll also notice a Haft Seen is symmetrical. Symmetry is incredibly important as it symbolizes harmony. I find the Haft Seen to be my favorite element of Nowruz for its elegance, intricate designs and deep symbolic nature. I believe this to be the heart of Nowruz with the making of the Sophreh Haft Seen surrounded in a beautiful poetry.
Next year on the first day of Spring, what will your Haft Seen look like?
Eide Shoma Mobarak! (Happy New Year)