The first day of spring often feels like the dawn of a new day, especially after the brutal winter so many of us have endured. But Nowruz, or ‘New Day’ in Persian, turns this feeling into something tangible with 13 days of festivities celebrating the start of a new year.
Nowruz is an ancient festival that marks the beginning of spring and the rebirth of nature. The start of the festival aligns with the vernal equinox — the fun begins the moment the sun crosses the equator.
Nowruz is widely known as the Persian New Year or the Iranian New Year, but many countries and cultures around the world celebrate Nowruz as the start of a new year. In fact, more than 300 million people observe Nowruz in countries like Afghanistan, Albania, India, Iraq, Northwestern China, and beyond. Here’s what you need to know about celebrating Nowruz and the arrival of spring.
The history of Nowruz
Part of what makes Nowruz so special is its rich history — Nowruz has been celebrated worldwide for more than 3,000 years. The holiday originated in Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion of Iran. While it is still a holy day for Zoroastrians, people of all different faiths celebrate Nowruz as the beginning of a new year.
The start of Nowruz always coincides exactly with the vernal equinox and lasts for 13 days. The holiday’s alignment with spring is no accident — festivals derived from ancient Iranian religions are often rooted in the sun’s light and have a deep connection to nature. Around the world, Nowruz festivities and rituals are all about celebrating spring and the renewal of nature, with a strong focus on visiting family, friends, and neighbors.
How to celebrate Nowruz
The 13-day festivities of Nowruz are meant to prepare for the coming year. Families buy new clothes, do spring cleaning, and bring together generations of family members to celebrate. If you want to celebrate Nowruz this year, spring cleaning is one of the most important traditions to practice. For example, families in Iran prepare their homes for the new year with an extensive cleaning called khaneh-tekani, which literally means ‘shaking the house.’ Shake things up in your own home by deep-cleaning every room, donating old clothes and unwanted goods, and decorating with fresh flowers like hyacinths and tulips. You might even consider adding a goldfish to your family, as a goldfish is a positive symbol of moving forward in the new year.
Around the world, there are tons of Nowruz dinners, celebrations, and festivals taking place, so if you’re headed to a Nowruz celebration (or hosting your own!), take a few minutes to brush up on your Iranian culture and practice your Persian. We love Persian because it has a beautiful, complex non-verbal language beyond the spoken word — like did you know biting your index finger or the web between your thumb and index finger is an anti-jinx, as in ‘God Forbid?’
Nowruz table traditions
If you do attend a Nowruz dinner this year, you’ll likely experience Haft Seen, the traditional table setting of Nowruz in Iran. Typically, the Haft Seen table includes seven items that all symbolize spring and begin with the letter sin [s]. Usually, you’ll see things like sprouts, garlic, apples, and samanu (a sweet, smooth Iranian pudding). Each of these items represents a virtue or wish for the new year, such as a coin for prosperity and an apple for beauty and health. Families and friends gather around the table to count down to the new year, waiting until the stroke of the vernal equinox before indulging in the symbolic, delicious dinner.
How to say 'Happy New Year' in Farsi
There’s so much more to learn about Iranian culture — Nowruz is the perfect time to get started with Mango Languages’ Persian (Farsi) course. Click the button below to start learning Farsi, the Persian language spoken in Iran. Saale no mobarak! [Happy New Year!]
How will you be celebrating Nowruz this year? Share your plans in the comments below (bonus points if you use Farsi)!