Nowruz Date in the current year: March 21, 2019

Nowruz Nowruz is one of the most widely celebrated New Year’s holidays around the world. Also known as Persian New Year or Iranian New Year, it observed on the day of the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

The first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar, which has been adopted by most countries instead of, or along with other calendars, is January 1. However, this is a relatively new phenomenon. In most cultures, New Year’s celebrations were historically associated with the beginning of spring conventionally marked by the vernal equinox.

Nowruz is the first day of the year in the Zoroastrian calendar and in the Solar Hijri calendar (the official calendar of Iran and Afghanistan). It usually occurs on or around March 21. The roots of the Nowruz celebration can be traced back to ancient Persian mythology. Interestingly, it was one of the few celebrations to survive the Muslim conquest of Persia in the 7th century.

Moreover, Nowruz has spread across western, central and southern Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, several Caucasian and Central Asian countries declared it as a public holiday. Today, Nowruz is a public holiday in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, parts of India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is also celebrated by Iranians, Kurds, Zoroastrians, and other communities across the world.

For Zoroastrians, Nowruz is a holy day. For people of other faiths who celebrate Persian New Year, it is a secular holiday that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Some holiday customs are shared by celebrants in different countries. They include house cleaning and decoration as well as visiting family, friends and neighbors. Visitors are usually treated to tea, cookies, pastries, fruits, nuts and other snacks.

One of the best-known Nowruz traditions is called Haft-sin. It is an arrangement of seven symbolic items whose names start with the letter sin in the Persian alphabet. The primary items of Haft-sin include:

  • Wheatgrass grown in a dish (sabze).
  • Sweet paste made from wheat sprout (samanu).
  • Persian olive (senjed).
  • Vinegar (serke).
  • Apple (sib).
  • Garlic (sir).
  • Sumac (somaq).

Other symbolic items that can be used in the arrangement include candles, a mirror, a bowl of water, painted eggs, coins, goldfish, hyacinth, and traditional sweets. Many families also include a “book of wisdom” depending on their faith (the Quran for Muslims, the Bible for Christians, the Avesta for Zoroastrians, the Shahnameh or Divān for those who want to show their respect for Persian culture and language).

In Azerbajan, a similar arrangement is named Khoncha. It consists of a big copper or silver tray with wheatgrass in the middle, a dyed egg for each family member, and candles. In Afghanistan, it is customary to prepare Haft Mēwa, a mix of seven different dried fruits and nuts served in syrup.

Nowruz is regarded as one of the most important cultural celebrations in the world. In 2009, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The next year, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as International Nowruz Day.

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Category

Public Holidays, Cultural Observances, Folk Festivals

Country

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uruguay

Tags

Nowruz, Persian New Year, Iranian New Year, public holiday, cultural observance, folk festival