The Sound of Nowruz's Footsteps

Rezvan Vatankhah
Mar 31st, 2014

Iranian New Year has just taken place and Iranians the world over are celebrating.


Cold Grandma little by little is packing up and taking her long white hair into her arms from the city, hair by hair! She follows the wind until Uncle Nowruz appears with a message of happiness and freshness. The musky breath of spring blows from beyond the horizon… Ah! These two thousand year old lovers have never been able to meet!

The smell of spring intoxicates birds as well as humans! These days, Iran is filled with the uproar of spring. The scent of spring, the perfumes of vernal flowers, fresh grass and soil wet with rain, God's gifts to earth, overflows everywhere. Iranian New Year begins in and corresponds with the first day of spring (20-21 March). Iranians have celebrated Nowruz, wherever they were, throughout history. According to researchers Nowruz is the oldest celebration in the world, lasting from the first day of Farvardin (the first month of Iranian year) to the thirteenth. Like many other things, its origin dates back to Jamshid, the mythical Iranian king.

In the last days of the year the rich help the poor to enjoy the Nowruz ceremonies, and bring a smile to their children's lips. This ceremony doesn’t discriminate between the poor and the rich, who share its traditions, such as spring house cleaning, buying new clothes, growing plant-pots, Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbe Souri), setting the seven “sins” (an Iranian alphabet letter representing the ‘s’ sound), visiting the graves of the dead, visiting each other, and going outdoors on the thirteenth day.

Spring cleaning. Iranians in the last days of year clean their houses and alleys, and buy new furniture or repair old pieces.

Buying new clothes. Before transition to the New Year, people of Iran go to the bazaar to buy new clothes. As nature puts on a new costume, they imitate it. They believe that they should wear new clothes – even something as simple as a pair of socks – placed on the Seven Sins (haft sin) table cloth for blessing.

Growing plant-pots. It is a custom that people plant seeds two weeks before Nowruz. It is customary to plant seeds like wheat, lentil, vetch, cress etc. They do that for blessing. In fact Iran has been a region with an agricultural economy since the oldest days. So according to Abu Rayhan Biruni Iranians used to plant seeds before Nowruz so as to know what harvest would grow best in the following year. 

Fireworks Wednesday (Chaharshanbe Souri). Certainly, all people have problems in their lives that have no solutions. Iranians attempt to dispel these on the night of the last Wednesday of the year by making a fire and jumping over it, to leave their grief in it and ask happiness from it. Fire was and is a holy element in Iranian beliefs. Souri means red in Persian; and it also is the name of a kind of flower. The Souri flower is a red and fiery flower. Representing this, Uncle Firuz has a black face, dresses all in red and dances in village alleys and public spaces. Mehrdad Bahar believed: ‘Wednesday is a metaphor of the four seasons’.  Iranians also asked for the heat of the sun. The sun has always had a vital place in Persian literature.

Setting the Haft Sin (the Seven “Sins”, after a letter in the Iranian alphabet). Haft Sin is one of the important parts of Nowruz and the beginning of spring. Iranians set a specially decorated tablecloth before the final transition to the New Year or during Nowruz, and sit around it the last hours and minutes of the current year until New Year’s beginning. There should be seven foods (especially growing ones) whose names begin with sin on this otherwise white tablecloth. These are apple, garlic, sumac, service, vinegar, samanu (a kind of sweet Iranian dessert) and grown seeds. Of course the name of each of these things begins with the letter sin in the Persian alphabet – it sounds like the English 's'. In addition they set a mirror, alyssum flower, red fish, coin, clock, coloured eggs, bread, cheese and greens on the Haft Sin too. They set a water bowl with a sour orange or apple floating in it; according to a folk belief this sour orange or apple slightly turns exactly at the moment of transition to the New Year. Believers of every religion place their holy book among themselves on Haft Sin – for instance Moslems set the Quran and Zoroastrians set the Avesta. They put new unfolded paper money among the pages of these holy books until the transition to the New Year. Then during Nowruz they give it to younger people and children as gift or keep them as a blessing. All of these decorations are set so that they are visible in the mirror. Most Iranians keep their Haft Sin until the thirteenth day of Farvardin.

Visiting the graves of the dead. It is a custom that people go to visit dead relatives’ graves and celebrate New Year before the transition or one day after it. Haft Sin are set on their graves, and people are welcomed with dates or cookies, and they are asked to pray for forgiveness for them. People believe that the souls of the dead come to their homes during Nowruz.

Visiting each other. Iranians visit each other after the transition. They exchange money or gifts together. Gifts are given to children and young people.  Overall, Nowruzi  presents provide a special pleasure.

Going outdoors on the thirteenth day. The thirteenth of each month is thought to be unlucky in most cultures. Considering this, people go outdoors for safety on this day.  They go to the countryside, open spaces, and gardens or parks with their families or kinfolks on picnic. They cook lunch and eat together. They laugh and play and snap grass to make their wishes come true.

Spring is the beginning of nature’s renaissance and its regeneration. Persians celebrate Nowruz and the coming spring at the end of winter, world’s death. Winter was the battlefield of the bad-tempered devil, and spring the bearer of glad tidings from Mithra (Mehr)’s godhead and the sun in ancient Iran. The beginning of spring in Iran coincides with the celebration of Easter, namely the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection in Christianity.

According to Hafiz, the famous Iranian poet: ‘...the happy news is that spring is coming and grass is beginning to grow!’

Images from


Rezvan Vatankhah
Last blog date: Mar 31st, 2014


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