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Happy Nowruz! And Introduction to my Mini Series on Persian Cuisine!

Hello all, I say I will update every week and then I go missing for 3 weeks. Tsk tsk. Remember that cold I was getting? It turned into the worst cold I’ve ever had in my life, lasting well over 2 weeks and me still sniffling and coughing. But we aren’t going to talk about that today. Nope. Today we are going to talk about the Persian New Year- Nowruz.

Being an Iranian-Canadian I have quite the clash of both the cultures, which even though they can make my life a bit complicated at times, I love to no end and wouldn’t change for the world. Today I would like to introduce you to my world and my Persian Routes. Hopefully you enjoy!

So, what is Nowruz(or Norouz)?

Nowruz is a rich tradition that is celebrated by many different countries and territories, and marks the first day of spring (Persian Equinox) and also happens to mark the beginning of the Persian New Year. Nowruz recognizes the rebirth of nature, and despite its Iranian Characteristics, is celebrated by many people throughout the world.

(In fact, according to a quick wiki search, Practiced principally in: Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan as well as Ethnic groups in: Zoroastrians, Sufis, Bahá'ís and the Iranian diaspora. Also observed in Armenia, Bosnia, Caucasus, Crimea, Georgia, India, Kashmir, Macedonia, Pakistan, Serbia, and among Uyghurs and Salars of China.)

ALSO, The UN's General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years, and was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity!

What’s amazing about this is that not too many people in North America have ever heard of Nowruz, let alone know its practices! I also found the internet was a bit limited in resources…so hopefully this post will help just a little. :)

The word Nowruz literally translates into ‘New Day’ (Now=new, rouz=day) in Persian, and the festival marks the beginning of the solar year and new year on the Iranian calendar, as well as among several other nationalities. It is a time to celebrate life at the time when life begins or is renewed – this renewal of nature is the essence of this millennia-old tradition. My favorite part about nowruz is that it is not a religious holiday – it’s a cultural one. So on new years, everyone, from Christian, Jew, Muslim, Zoroastrian, (and even atheist) come together to celebrate the first day of spring and the beginning of the new year!!

Nowruz has many different components and ‘steps’ to it, as most holidays do. Hopefully next year I will be able to blog about it more, and be able to cover each part more as it comes by. The preparations for Nowruz include Chahārshanbe Sūrī, (some bonfire fun) and some ‘Khaneh Tekani” which is basically some major house cleaning in preparation for the new year. Some people believe that the origin of the very North American practice of “spring cleaning” originates from Norouz!

A major tradition of Nowruz is that of setting a table of ‘haft seen’ – which translates into the 7 “s” (the letter ‘s’- is pronounced as seen in Farsi) upon this table one sets things that symbolize good luck for the upcoming year (you will come to find that Persians are VERY superstitious;) )
There are many things to put on the table, many symbolizing different things, but the 7 ‘s’ must be present! (lucky number 7) On our table we put the following:

(left to Right)
1) Seer - Garlic - Garlic has been known for centuries for its medicinal benefits and symbolizes good health for the new year
2) Sabzeh - Spring Sprouts - Made from wheat or lentil this S signifies rebirth and renewal.
Rice - not part of the haft seen - but symbolizes better fortune
3) Somagh - Crushed Sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise ( and with the sun all evil is conquered.)
4) Seem (fish) - Gold Fish - Gold Fish in a clear white bowl represents life and the end of the astral year associated with the constellation Pisces.

Decorated eggs - Symbolizes fertility. Eggs are usually painted by children much like Easter eggs are painted.

5) Serkeh - White Vinegar signifies age and patience.

6) Seeb - apple - A big red apple represents health and beauty.

7) Seke - Coins - represents wealth and prosperity ( I didnt get a sepearte picture of it..but its the little bowl with coins in it)

Other things to put on the table:

A mirror - To bring light & brightness into the New Year

Candles- enlightenment and happiness

Your chosen religious book - Ex. Quran, Bible, Torah etc... some people like to put a book from Hafez instead (a book of poetry from one of the Ancient and most respected poets in Persian History)

One of the major things that one must not forget, especially when you have a food blog, is that you need to have lots of sweets and pastries on the table as well (an throughout the holiday! Of COURSE ;) )

There are many other things representing different types of good luck that can also be placed on the table!

At the exact time of new years, the family surrounds the table and count in the new year together!

Now, time for a little confession. New Years was actually last week (on the 20th). I *meant* to update on said date, but you guys know how it gets! ;)

As well, I'm sure you guys remember me mentioning a few times that I plan on doing a mini-series on Persian Cuisine, but couldn't think of a good way to 'kick start' it. But now I have come to the conclusion of "what better time to start than at New Year?" So, I hope you guys enjoy and tag along! I plan on learning more about Persian Cuisine and sharing recipes with you guys soon! So check back often ;)

Jordan  – (March 30, 2010 at 12:37 PM)  

That's a really cool tradition! I love the easter eggs and the fish in a bowl. Totally random to me, but really cool meanings!

Anonymous –   – (March 30, 2010 at 7:09 PM)  

I've never heard of Nowruz. This was a really interesting post! Thanks for sharing the tradition :D

Lisa  – (April 3, 2010 at 3:56 AM)  

Interesting post! I love the look of those little cookies you had on the table. I did not realise there was a Persian New Year.

Kristen Doyle  – (April 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM)  

I love learning about other traditions. Thanks for sharing.

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