Why I Love Norooz

Tori Egherman explains Norooz traditions, and why she loves it.  Photo by Ehsan Khakbaz H. via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

Tori Egherman explains Norooz traditions, and why she loves it. Photo by Ehsan Khakbaz H. via Flickr (CC BY-ND-SA 2.0)

Written by Tori Egherman, Program Coordinator at Arseh Sevom. A version of this first appeared on the Arseh Sevom website.

Norooz (or Nowruz) is a wonderful time of the year to be in Iran. The celebrations begin on the last Tuesday evening before the Spring Equinox with fireworks and fire-jumping. People leap over the fires shouting “Zardiye man az to, Sorkhieh to az man,” which means “Throwing the darkness & ill the in fire, receiving health and joy back from the fire”. They end two weeks later with picnicking.

Norooz marks the beginning of the new year for people in Iran and other countries in the region.

There is an energy and excitement to the celebrations in Iran, a cultural expression that unifies people across class, religion, and ethnicity. Not celebrating the two weeks of holidays in some way or another is unthinkable. When I lived in Iran, the Norooz holidays felt like a kind of welcoming. By this I mean that they allowed me to be an Iranian for two weeks a year. They allowed me room to celebrate without negating any part of myself. The Norooz holiday tradition is open and inviting. It does not demand belief or faith. Celebrations are both private and public, and broad enough for anyone to enjoy.
Norooz itself takes place at the moment of the Equinox, usually on March 21. Since the equinox occurs at the same time all over the world, so does the changing of the year. Whether it's 3 am in Los Angeles or 2:30 pm in Tehran, the new year begins.

There are many traditions attending the changing of the year including spring cleaning, making amends, buying new clothes, giving gifts, visiting friends and relatives. Most families decorate their homes with the haft sin (Seven “s's”). A table is covered with all sorts of things beginning with “s.” These items represent common new year themes, including renewal, wisdom, health, and prosperity. You usually see sprouts, pudding, coins, eggs, and other items.

If you want to know more about the traditions of Norooz, a simple internet search will return hundreds of responses. Harvard University has a pdf guide for educators. This link provides an overview of Sizdeh Bedar, the picnic that is the official end of the two-week Norooz holidays.

So, to all who celebrate Norooz: happy new year. To to those who don't: it's not too late to start!

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