UPDATE: March 20, 2021
In March of 2015 we were in Iran celebrating Norooz, the Persian New Year, with our BIG extended family. It was my first trip to Iran and it was quite the exciting experience to see the whole country come together in celebration of spring and the new year. It is the #1 celebration in the lives of the Persian people. In honor of the new year, we are dusting off this post and sharing it in celebration. Norooz Mobaarak – 1400!
Norooz and the Haft Seen
The new year, Norooz, has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and as such it is steeped in tradition and culture. For days leading up to the new year families make ready. You’ve heard of spring cleaning? Cleaning for Norooz takes it to a whole other level of clean. Everyone cleans their house from top to bottom. They buy new clothes and groceries, they prep and cook, and every home sets out the traditional display of Haft Seen.
Traditionally, all 7 items of the Haft Seen begin with the letter S. Each of the items corresponds with the 7 creations and the 7 holy immortals, protectors of all.
- Seeb – an apple symbolizing beauty
- Sabze – green grass growing in a dish symbolizing rebirth
- Somagh – a Persian spice symbolizing the color of the sunrise
- Samanoo – a sweet pudding symbolizing affluence
- Senjed – dried fruit symbolizing love
- Sekke – coins symbolizing wealth
- Seer – garlic which symbolizes medicine and health
One might also find a book of poetry, candles for each member of the family and water. Essentially, they are all tied to the tradition of life. Norooz is all about gathering together in the spirit of welcoming spring and the beginning of a new year; a celebration lasting 13 days!
A Celebration of Family
Families visit among themselves, quite often visiting the home of the eldest first, and then making their way down the family line. Children receive gifts of money and sweets and lots of attention. On the 13th day, the day after the new year, everyone goes outside to embrace mother nature. Parks are bursting at the boundaries with everyone out and about. Picnic baskets, small bbq’s, tea pots, pastries, it’s all there to be shared. And, if an unwed girl so desires, she can tie a knot between blades of green grass and wish for a husband.
Did I mention the food? Oh my, my, my the food. The food is everywhere and everyone is encouraged to eat! You will never meet more hospitable and generous people. The Persian people sincerely consider it an honor to host you in their home.
And the pastry. The pastry is to die for. I’m here to tell you that Persian pastry gives French pastry a run for its money. I ate my weight in pastry; almost to the point of embarrassing myself. We walked across Spain after leaving Iran and that proved to be a very good thing! Most every pilgrim, who walks the Camino de Santiago, will talk about how much weight they lost while walking the Camino, but not me. I ate so much food and pastry while spending 3 weeks in Iran, it took walking across Spain to lose it all!
If there is a downside to traveling in Iran during Norooz, it would be that everywhere you go there are throngs of people and it can take a bit of getting used to. We were fortunate in that we were surrounded by family who knew all of the short cuts. Schools are closed and people take time away from work. Everyone is out and about, taking in the sites, traveling to other parts of the country, visiting friends and family and just generally celebrating life!
The Persian people – and their culture – are far too often misunderstood by the western world. In this especially difficult political climate, here in the United States, the hateful rhetoric seems to overshadow the good. There isn’t a country in the world that does not have its sordid history. I suspect while the world watches our new administration (2016), they are looking at us and shaking their heads in disbelief and judgment. I think the same happens to the good people of Iran, but on a more frequent basis. It’s so easy to target and judge those who appear different from us, isn’t it? They are just people living their best lives. Just like I do. Just like you do.
What I love about traveling the world, and learning about other cultures, is that it brings home the reality of there being so much more good in the world, than bad. People are inherently good and I for one am incredibly grateful that I can share the good, of the Persian people.
Norooz Mobaarak – 1394!
To read more about our 3 weeks in Iran:
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It’s very interesting reading about Norooz celebration of Persian and know more about their culture. Thanks for great content Patti.
“There isn’t a country in the world that does not have its sordid history.”
So true. And, I would also add, “There isn’t a country in the world that does not have good people.”
Exactly, Donna. Thank you for this.
Patti, it is always fascinating to learn about such a special celebration. The food looks absolutely delicious. I hope you and Abi will get the opportunity to visit the family in Iran again in the near future.
Thank you, Gilda. There’s more hope for better government/country relations with our new administration. Hopefully, doors will open.
What a lovely family portrait, and the food looks incredible! I would agree that people do judge and target those who are different – and traveling is just the remedy for that!
You’re right, Cindy, travel opens the mind and eyes if one is willing!
Holidays with family – such nice memories.
Wonderful memories indeed. It’s unfortunate there is a world between us.
I loved reading about the Norooz celebration. How blessed you are to be a part of that experience! Love the 13th day in nature and the food and pastries have made my mouth water. Ben as you know is French and yes he completely agrees with the notion that these pastries give French ones a run for the money – having done a lot of homework eating much of both!!
I’m going to share this with my friend Sharon as she and her husband have been trying to get to Iran for about four years now- trip keeps getting postponed for all the myriad of reasons beyond their control.
Your “final thoughts” are so important and spot on. Bravo for a beautiful important piece!
Thank you for the feedback about my final thoughts paragraph, Peta. Hopefully, with the new administration here in the US, the doors of understanding will open. The first step was getting rid of the Muslim ban. I hope your friends are able to find a way to visit Iran, it really is an extraordinary country.