Persian New Year: A Reason to Celebrate
To help us ring in the Persian New Year – and celebrate our delicious new Persian specials – we’re thrilled to share this guest blog from masters of Persian cooking, Bita Arabian and Beata Nazem Kelley. Learn how they celebrate this joyous occasion … and why you should, too!
Guest Blog by Bita Arabian & Beata Nazem Kelley
What Is Norooz?
The Persian New Year, known as Norooz or Nowruz, is the biggest celebration of the year in Persian culture. It is a time of renewal and rebirth and happens at the exact moment of the Spring Equinox. This year Norooz is Sunday morning, March 20th!
There is so much rich symbolism around the Persian New Year. Some of the sentiments include renewal, growth, health and healing, hope, fertility, reflection, beauty, and love.
Events and Customs
Norooz is a nonsecular holiday going back about 4,000 years to Zorastrian times. There are many rituals and customs. Here is a short list:
- Spring cleaning – in Farsi “khaneh tekani” which translates literally as “shaking out the house!”
- Purchasing new clothes and shoes – in old custom this is the one time children get new things each year, similar to back to school shopping traditions here in the West
- Setting up the Haft-seen table (sofreh haftseen) with 7 symbolic items that start with the Farsi letter “seen”; essentially items starting with the “s” sound
- Feasting – a feast consisting of herb rice and fish, delicious aash reshteh | Persian herb noodle soup, and kookoo sabzi | Persian herb frittata
- Giving cash gifts (in Farsi called “eidee”/ “aidee”) to children
It all starts with a fun preamble known as “Chahar Shambeh Souri,” the Festival of Light and Fire. Chahar Shambeh Souri translates as “Fire Wednesday.” It’s a fun night to jump over a series of three small bonfires and snack on Persian trail mix called Ajeel. In our families, we often set up safe candles to jump over to keep the traditions going.
The 13th Day
The Persian New Year is a collection of events and customs that lasts 13 days! On the 13th day, it is considered bad luck to stay indoors. Many families have picnics and play outdoor games on Sizdah Behdar (translated as 13th day outdoors). If the weather is not quite warm enough, a little fresh air or a short walk does the trick. The point is to get outside for cleansing and renewal.
About two weeks before the new year, many families begin growing “sabzeh” which I like to call Persian grass. Sabzeh can be sprouted from lentils, mung beans, wheat, or even chia. There are many modern and creative ways to grow and display sabzeh. My favorite way is to sprout chia seeds. Chia is fast and forgiving to sprout and grow. Other shortcuts include purchasing wheat grass or kitty grass (catnip) to represent sabzeh on the haftseen.
At the moment of the Equinox (or in modern times, often celebrated on a weekend day near it), friends and family gather around a table setting called the Sofreh Haft-Seen.
7 Symbolic Items
Sofreh Haftseen - 7 symbolic items
- Sib - apple symbolizing beauty
- Sabzeh - green sprouts representing growth and life
- Sonbol - fresh and sweet-smelling hyacinth flower symbolizing the fragrance and beauty of life
- Seer - garlic symbolizes health
- Senjed - dried Persian olives symbolizing love
- Somagh- sumac representing the color of sunrise
- Sekeh - coins symbolizing prosperity
- Serkeh - vinegar symbolizes aging
- Samanou - wheat sprout pudding representing patience, power, bravery
There are more than seven items on this comprehensive list and there is flexibility around which 7 symbolic items to feature on your sofreh haft-seen.
Have fun with it and cheers to the Spring New Year filled with hope, life, and love.
For more information and details about Norooz | The Persian New Year, refer to the following content:
- Bita & Beata, also known as “the Beats”