Iranian New Year: Nowruz, a millenary celebration that survives in various countries

Equivalent to the New Year in the Christian world, Nowruz is the biggest holiday celebrated in Iran and adds to the attractiveness of this territory.

Iranian New Year: Nowruz, a millenary celebration that survives in various countries
Iranian New Year: Nowruz. Image by Gabriele M. Reinhardt from Pixabay

Equivalent to the New Year in the Christian world, Nowruz is the biggest festival celebrated in Iran, whose roots extend back to the Mesopotamian cult of Tammuz, the god of fertility who died and rose again. This tradition adds to the attraction of this territory.

This celebration is related to the Sumerian festival called Akitu, which dates back to 2 000 or 3 000 B.C. Tammuz is the heritage of a deity directly related to the beginning of spring; hence the Nowruz (New Day) coincides with the equinox. As part of the celebration of Nowruz, in Iran they germinate wheat or barley; this reminds Christians of the Altar of Sorrows, where cereals of this type are laid out. This rite has its origin precisely in the Nowruz.

This act of germination dates back to the ancient religion of the Persians, Zoroastrianism, which was one of the few things that remained despite Islam and continues to this day. Nowruz is part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity. To realize the reminiscence of the feast, in one of the staircases of Persepolis it is possible to see the carving of worshippers who are supposed to bring gifts to the king for Nowruz. We are talking about 500 - 800 BC.

This festival, however, has an effect not only in Iran but everywhere where the Persian Empire was important, that is, in the present-day countries - particularly in Central Asia - Afghanistan, India, Azerbaijan, Albania, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and especially among the Kurds. It should be noted that until the year 2000, the Kurds living in Turkey were forbidden to celebrate Nowruz, because although they are a tribe converted to Islam (the majority religion in Turkey) they were accused of carrying out genocide against the Armenians.

The Nowruz is preceded by weeks of preparation. Everyone cleans their house thoroughly, buys or makes new clothes, cooks traditional pastries, and makes a ceremonial preparation called haftseen (seven S's), which consists of seven symbols beginning with the sound "s", which are displayed with other symbolic objects such as mirrors, colored eggs, or a goldfish in their fish tank.

For twelve days people visit relatives and friends, always starting with the oldest ones. They also try to have good behavior, because they think that what they do during Nowruz, will remain for the rest of the year. Another custom is the making of bonfires in the streets and jumping over them, a similar tradition in Europe but there it takes place in the summer and winter solstices.

Nowruz lasts thirteen days because they thought that the twelve constellations in the zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each one ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of these, the sky and the earth would collapse and become chaos. Therefore, the holiday lasts for twelve days and the 13th represents the time of chaos, when families leave order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number 13, so they go out and have picnics or parties.