Photo from http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2010/03/first-bud-of-spring/

The Iranian origins of our first new book for 2013, The Girl with a Brave Heart, have set the Barefoot Books offices abuzz about all things Iranian. This is a special time of year for the Iranian peoples. Nowruz, the Persian New Year, will fall on 20 March 2013. This date marks the first day of spring and the first day of the Iranian calendar. The holiday has been celebrated for over three thousand years, and is now observed in many countries all over the world.

The name of the holiday means “new day” and can be spelled many different ways: Nowruz, Nouruz, Norouz, Norooz, Narooz, Nawru, Nauruz, Nawroz, Noruz, Nohrooz, Novruz, Nauroz, Navroz, Naw-Rúz, Nowroj, Navroj, Nevruz, Newroz, Navruz, Navrez, Nooruz, Nauryz, Nevruz and Nowrouz. (WHEW!) That’s because the name is transliterated from the Persian word نوروز.

I have learned that there are lots of ways to celebrate the Persian New Year. The first step is a complete cleaning of the home, which is called Khouneh Tekouni. Next, many people  buy new clothes.  On the first day of the new year, it is customary to don your spiffy new outfit and make visits: first to the elders of the family, then the rest of the family and finally your friends.

Another important tradition for Nowruz is Chahārshanbe Suri, which is the festival of fire that is celebrated on the last Wednesday of the year. Bonfires are built in the streets for celebrants to leap over as they sing zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man. This means, “My sickly yellow paleness is yours; your fiery red color is mine.” The fire purifies: it takes away people’s problems and weaknesses and replaces them with warmth and vitality.

At Nowruz, families also prepare a table setting called a Haft Sîn. This table is set with seven symbolic food items that all begin with the letter <s>. (Anyone familiar with the tradition of Passover seder might recognize the concept of symbolic food arrangements like this.) The items include:

  • sabzeh: sprouted grain in a dish, symbolizing rebirth
  • samanu: sweet wheat germ pudding, symbolizing affluence
  • senjed: dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love
  • serkeh: vinegar, symbolizing age and patience
  • sīb: apples, symbolizing beauty and health
  • sīr: garlic, symbolizing medicine
  • somaq: sumac berries, symbolizing sunrise
Photo from http://www.iranchamber.com/culture/articles/norooz_iranian_new_year.php
Haft Sîn table

This fascinating celebration of the new year and all of its possibilities is really resonating with us here in the Barefoot Books offices, where we have been awaiting the arrival of spring with baited breath for what feels like months! What traditions do you observe to welcome the spring?

Haft Sîn table photo from http://www.iranchamber.com/culture/articles/norooz_iranian_new_year.php

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