Before meeting my husband, I had never formally celebrated the beginning of spring. Now I look forward to it every year. Persian New Year, Norouz, is the spring equinox and has been celebrated since antiquity. In Toronto, it often doesn’t feel like spring when we celebrate, but it’s nice to know that after celebrating Norouz warm weather is usually around the corner.
In preparation for Norouz one of the traditions is a thorough Spring Cleaning or a “shaking of the house”. After everything is cleaned, and excess items are donated, some might get a new outfit to start the new year on a prosperous foot.
A Haft-Sin is a decorative table spread, with symbolic items, set up in the home. What might you find on a Haft-Sin?
- Lentil Sprouts growing in a dish, symbolizing re-birth
- Garlic, a symbol of medicine and good health
- Apples, symbolizing health and beauty
- Sumac, signifying the colour of sunrise
- Vinegar, a symbol of patience and the wisdom gained in old age
- Samanu (A pudding made from wheat-germ) that signifies prosperity
- Senjed (dried fruit from the oleaster tree) a symbol of love
- Coins, a symbol of wealth and future prosperity
- Fragrant flowers, a sign of the coming of Spring
- Lit Candles, a symbol of happiness and wisdom
- A Mirror encouraging self-reflection on the year that has passed
- Decorated Eggs, symbolizing fertility
- A Goldfish in its bowl, a symbol of life and good health
- Rose water, believed to have cleansing powers
- Books of classical poetry and/or the Koran (for spirituality)
- Traditional Iranian pastries and dried nuts and fruits, a symbol of hospitality as you would offer these to guests visiting during the week of Norouz
Historically in Iran, people would set up bon-fires for another tradition called “fire-jumping”. Individuals leap over the flames to ensure good health for the up-coming year. Now this ritual is prohibited in many areas (due to safety concerns).
One of the traditional foods for Norouz is “Sabzi Pollo Mahi” a fish and rice dish. The fish is a symbol for good-health and the green herbs in the rice symbolize the coming of spring.
On the 13th day of the new year, another custom is to remove the bad luck associated with the number 13 from the family home. The lentil sprouts that were grown in the home, and used to decorate the Haft-Sin, are taken to a park to be discarded. Similarly, the gold-fish is released into a stream or pond. They are believed to have collected the potential bad-fortune and poor health of the family, and are now expelled from the home. Families gather in parks or the country-side for picnics; unmarried women knot grass blades in the hopes of finding true love by the next Norouz.
Norouz is a beautiful holiday steeped in tradition. I’m grateful that I now celebrate it with family each year and that Elowyn will grow up with a holiday to look forward to in the dreary weeks leading up to Spring.