Guest blog by Sara Taslim on celebrating the Persian New Year
Monday, March 20, 2017, was the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which directly translates to “new day.” The day of Persian New Year is on the vernal equinox, established through astronomical calculations to predict a very accurate time for the renewal of the year. Nowruz is a festival originated in the Zoroastrian era of ancient Persia, rooting back more than 3,000 years. This day symbols the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one, and wiping away any gloom of the previous year and starting fresh.
In my family, we start preparing for this day weeks in advance, and continue celebrating weeks after New Year’s Day.Leading up to Nowruz, everyone starts spring-cleaning, New Year’s shopping, and planting and growing bean and lentil sprouts (sabzeh) for the “haft-seen,” a traditional table arrangement of items that represent different expectations for the new year. Every household’s table varies, but there are seven things that are always included: sabzeh ( lentil sprouts) for rebirth, samanu (a sweet pudding) for abundance, sekeh (vinegar) for wisdom, seer (garlic) for health, senjed (dried fruit) for love, seeb (apple) for beauty, and sumac berries to represent sunrise. People also include a mirror symbolizing reflection, coloured eggs for fertility, coins for success, and live goldfish for new life.
“Chahar Shanbe Suri” takes place on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. It’s a celebration in which families and friends gather around and jump over small bonfires as a symbolic cleansing ritual to leave anything negative behind and start the new year refreshed.
Nowruz day is when the celebration officially starts. Friends and family members visit each other, children receive gifts from elders, and lots of food is shared. The most important event on Nowruz day is the countdown to New Year, which happened at 06:28 am in Toronto this year. However, the festivity doesn’t end after this; Nowruz is only the beginning of a 13-day celebration.Food plays an important role in the holiday, and such main courses as “sabzi polo ba mahi” (herbed rice and fish) include lots of fresh herbs to go along with the concept of freshness and cleanliness. Lots of side dishes and sweets are made and enjoyed, either during short visits or long dinner parties.
The last ceremony of Nowruz happens 13 days after New Year’s Day, and is called “Sizah Bedar.” On this day, everyone spends time outside, picnicking in nature.
Persian New Year isn’t only about one specific day, but more of an ongoing series of events to celebrate rebirth and renewal, and to spend time with loved ones. It helps us take some time away from everyday life and reconnect with our culture and roots.
Photo: Greenery (sabzeh) that was planted by Sara.
Article and photo by Sara Taslim. Sara is a Grade 11 student at Richmond Hill High School. As part of her co-op program, she is working as an intern at Lake Simcoe Living. She plans to study law after high school. She celebrates Persian New Year (Nowruz) because she sees it as a great way to get together with family and friends and have a cultural experience.