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Nowruz is the Persian, or Iranian, spring celebration of the New Year. It’s the most important festival of the year in Iran, and it's a public holiday there and in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania and other countries in South and Central Asia. It’s a happy occasion, and there may be as many as 13 days’ holiday from school!
When is it?
Nowruz begins at the exact day, hour and minute of the spring equinox, when night and day are of equal length. This is usually on 21 March. It’s the day when winter changes into spring, and it feels like a new beginning.
People prepare for Nowruz by cleaning the whole house, and everyone in the family helps out. Carpets, windows and curtains are cleaned. Anything broken is repaired or replaced. Silverware is polished. The house is decorated with flowers. By doing this spring cleaning, people wash away the bad things from the previous year and prepare for better things to come in the new year. They also put on brand new clothes to symbolise a fresh start.
In the evening of the last Wednesday before Nowruz, bonfires are lit and people jump over the flames. The flames burn away sickness and bad luck.
Nowruz and the seven Ss
It’s important to start the year well: clean, smart, relaxed, happy and surrounded by loved ones. So, just before Nowruz, the whole family comes together. They celebrate around a special table in their house. It’s called the haftseen, which means ‘seven Ss’. On it, there are seven special objects, all of which begin with the ‘s’ sound in the Farsi language and which symbolise something. There are actually more than seven, but here are some of the most common.
|Persian name||What it is||What it symbolises|
|somaq||a bright red spice made from crushed berries||sunrise and the spice of life|
|senjed||the sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree||love|
|seeb||apples||health and beauty|
|samanu||a sweet pudding made from wheat||the sweetness of life|
|sabzeh||sprouted wheat grass||rebirth and the renewal of nature|
Some other symbolic objects are placed on the table, depending on the traditions of each family. These include a goldfish, painted eggs, candles and a mirror.
Nowruz in the UK
In the UK, Nowruz is celebrated by families from Iran and other countries. They set up a haftseen table in their homes too, but it’s difficult to find some of the objects in British supermarkets so they usually have to go to special Iranian shops to buy them. They send greetings to other family members living far away by phone or message. Nowruz is a happy and exciting time, even though there aren’t any school holidays for it in the UK.
Sometimes around Nowruz, events are organised to promote Iranian culture. These can include concerts, film screenings and museum exhibitions.
Worksheets and downloads
Do you celebrate Nowruz? How do you celebrate it?