In 2010, the UN General Assembly recognized March 21st as the International Day of Nowruz and in 2016, Nowruz was officially inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity .
Symbolic of the message of Nowruz, the poem Bani Adam by Iranian poet Saadi Shirazi is inscribed on a large hand-made carpet installed on a wall in the United Nations building in New York.
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
But what is Nowruz?
In simplest terms, Nowruz means “New Day”. Nowruz is the first day of Spring, marked by the moment of the Vernal Equinox (Tahvil) and celebrated as the beginning of the New Year. But for Iranians, neighboring nations and indeed across the globe, Nowruz represents the triumph of light over dark and the ensuing rejuvenation, reinvigoration and rebirth.
Nowruz has roots in the Zoroastrian faith, one of the most ancient and enduring religions of the world, centered on the core teaching, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”. But for three millennia the traditions and rituals of Nowruz have been celebrated by diverse cultures and faiths to honor the indivisible relationship between nature, family, humanity and the promise of new beginnings.
Nowruz is two-week celebration commencing with Charshanbeh Suri, a festival which includes the tradition of jumping over a bonfire to absorb the strength of the red flame and shed one’s unhealthy yellow pallor.
On the first day of the new year, the most important symbolic illustrations of Nowruz are arranged on a decorative table setting called Haft-Sin. The table is adorned with green, red and white silk dressings, bountiful arrangements of tulips, daffodils and hyacinth, colorfully decorated eggs, candles reflecting their warm glowing light, in a mirror symbolizing retrospection, scattered golden coins promising prosperity and goldfish playfully swimming in bowl. The feast includes fruits, special sweets and baked pastries but the important symbolism is in the arrangement of seven items starting with the letter “S” which historically have represented the seven sacred living creations and the seven holy immortals protecting them.
- sabzeh(سبزه) wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
- samanu (سمنو)- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
- senjed (سنجد)- the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
- sir (سیر)- garlic – symbolizing medicine
- sib (سیب)- apples – symbolizing beauty and health
- somaq (سماق)- sumac berries – symbolizing the color of sunrise
- serkeh (سرکه)- vinegar or honey symbolizing age and patience
On The final day of the Nowruz celebration, Sizdeh bedar, items from the Haft-Sin table, including the Sabzeh and spring flowers are thrown into streams. Goldfish may also be released in the stream but often are adopted as pets by the mesmerized children.
The remainder of the day is spent with family, friends and elders celebrating nature, picnicking, dancing, singing and in general sharing merriment. The unmarried women knot together strands of grass in the hope this tradition will bring them marriage in the coming year.
Today celebrations across the globe continue to observe Nowruz traditions and honor Persian culture with parades, musical performances using traditional Persian instruments, dancers adorned in bright silks, lectures and street fairs.
In the end, the traditions of Nowruz celebrations have ushered in the light, warmth and colors of the Spring season spreading the sense of renewed spirit, hope and willingness to answer the call to practice
“Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”