Nowruz Celebration - Iran (Persia)

Nowruz is an ancient celebration to greet the arrival of spring and new year which was registered in the list of world heritage of UNESCO through the attempts of 12 countries and the leadership of Iran in 2009 and 2016.

Nowruz is the Iranian New Year that has been celebrated since ancient times. Usually, March 21, or one day earlier or one day after that matches March equinox is known as Nowruz. Having been the most important celebration among all Iranians, Nowruz bonds all Iranian ethnic groups. According to Shahnameh (Iranian most popular epic poem book by Ferdowsi, 10th and 11th centuries CE), Nowruz was the day that Jamshid, the mythical Iranian King, sat on a sun shining throne and defeated cold and dark winter demons. The ceremonies of Nowruz are also depicted on Achaemenid Persepolis bas-reliefs. Nowruz customs starts every year from two weeks before the day of Nowruz and lasts for 13 days. These customs are divided into three parts; Nowruz eve customs, Nowruz day customs, and customs after the Nowruz day.

Nowruz eve singing, house cleaning and shopping, and Charshanbe Suri are the most prevalent customs for Iranians before Nowruz.


Nowruz eve singing

Iranians have some musical rituals, promising the arrival of Nowruz among which Nowruz Khani, Takam Gardani, Hajji Firuz, and Dhol and Sorna are the most distinguished ones. In Nowruz Khani, people called Nowruz Khan roam over towns and villages and loudly read poetry in praise of spring. Iranian Azeri people have a custom called Takam Gardani. Takam is a goat-shaped wooden doll played by Takamchi. Nonetheless, Hajji Firuz is the most well-known folkloric Nowruz harbinger among Iranians. Hajji Firuz with a black face covered in soot wearing red and bright cloths appears dancing in the streets, chanting comical rhythmic verses and playing the tambourine. Another notable Nowruz harbinger in Iran is Amu Nowruz (an Iranian character similar to Santa Claus) who gives gifts to children and anecdotes the old story of Nowruz. Amu Nowruz is an old man with long white beards and a felted hat. What is more, the music of Dhol (a double-headed frame drum) and Sorna (shawm) signals the arrival of Nowruz to Iranians.


House cleaning (Khaneh-Tekani) and shopping

Before the arrival of Nowruz and spring, all Iranians clean up their entire house that is to say shaking their house. House cleaning usually involves indoors cleaning, carpet washing, wall painting, and washing the yard. They, in fact, symbolically keep evils and impurity away from their house before the commence of New Year. Iranians also allocate some time to purchase new clothes to dress up in the New Year. Therefore, from some weeks to the New Year, streets and cloth shops are flocked by people who are passionately browsing clothes according to their allotted budget.

Nowruz, Charshanbe Suri - Persia Advisor Travels

Nowruz, Charshanbe Suri
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Charshanbe Suri

The last Tuesday night of the year is called Chaharshanbe Suri in Iran in which fire plays the central part. Families or friends come out of their house, gather brushwood, and set up a fire together. Then, they all jump over the flames and sing “sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to” that means your redness for me, my paleness for you (fire). In this way, prior to the New Year people symbolically leave their paleness and illness for fire and instead take its power and purity. A fading custom in Charshanbe Suri is Qashoq-zani meaning spoon-banging (similar to trick-or-treating) which people wear disguising clothes and hit a spoon on a plate in front of every house to receive some edible treats.

Customs of the Nowruz day

In the first day of New Year, setting Haft-sin, rituals on the New Year’s Eve, cooking Nowruz specific foods, and visiting friends and relatives are customary among Iranians.

Nowruz, Haft-sin - Persia Advisor Travels

Nowruz, Haft-sin
Photo by Youshij Yousefzadeh / Shutterstock


Irrespective of what time of a day is the New Year moment, Iranian families sit next to their Haft-sin together, excitedly expecting the New Year. Haft-sin includes seven symbolic items starting with Persian alphabetical letter س (s). Haft-sin consists of Sabze (i.e., wheat, barley, millet, and clover sprouts grown in a dish), Samanu (a sweet pudding made from germinated wheat), Senjed (Persian olive), Serke (vinegar), Sib (apple), Sir (garlic) and Somaq (sumac). Besides the seven abovementioned items, Haft-sin involves some other symbolic elements such as a mirror, a book of wisdom (i.e., Quran, divan of Hafez, Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, Bible, or Avesta), goldfish, painted eggs, candles, coins, wild rue, and flower (mostly Hyacinth). After the New Year’s moment and the arrival of Nowruz, family members congratulate the New Year, hug and kiss, and express good wishes for each other in the coming year. At this moment, as a gift, elder members of the family take out newly printed paper money called Eydi from inside a book of wisdom and give to youngsters.


Nowruz special food

Iranians believe in eating special food on the first day of the New Year. The special food for this day is Sabzi-Polo and Fish. Sabzi-Polo is a pilaf comprises of chopped vegetables typically coriander, parsley, dill, fenugreek, and chives or scallions. Samanu is another special edible made for Nowruz and sold almost in every grocery store. Samanu is a sweet paste made of germinated wheat accompanied by associated rituals.


Customs after the Nowruz day

In the days after Nowruz, Iranians generally visit their family and friends, go travel, and go to nature on Sizdah Be-dar, the 13th day of Nowruz.


Visiting family and friends

The period of Nowruz is the best time for Iranians to visit many of their families and friends. Typically, elders stay at home in the very first days of Nowruz expecting younger generations to visit them. However, elder people will return their visits in the following days. Upon seeing each other, people kiss each other, congratulate and wish the best ever coming year. Then, the host gives gifts and Eydi to youngsters. Collecting Eydi in Nowruz visits is a sweet hobby for many Iranian children. Tea, mixed nuts, fruits, and cookies are among the most common edibles served in Nowruz gatherings.


Sizdah Be-dar

Nowruz period is begun by the New Year moment, lasts for 13 days and ends with Sizdah Be-dar. In this day that is also called Nature’s Day, families leave their houses to join the nature and picnic. Throwing Sabze away and knotting Sabze by single individuals are the two chief Sizdah Be-dar customs. Iranian families keep their Haft-sin Sabze during Nowruz period to return it to nature in Sizdah Be-dar. Therefore, at the morning of Sizdah Be-dar, diverse dishes of Sabze wrapped with a red ribbon are perceptible in all cars that drive slowly in typically congested traffic in the hope of finding a spot on surrounding parks and landscapes. Apart from discarding Sabze in nature, knotting Sabze is another custom done on Sizdah Be-dar by single members of the family especially single ladies aspiring for a partner in the following year.