Norouz, Spiritual Heritage of Iranians

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monir Daraei 

This year, Norouz (Iranian New Year) ceremonies are different from past years. Norouz was registered as the great spiritual heritage of the Iranian culture and civilization at the beginning of the new Iranian year (started on March 20, 2008). Iranian civilization has deep roots in human history and Iranians have always protected their cultural and spiritual heritage considering it a cause of pride. All products of that heritage are being kept at various museums across the world and will keep its true status in the future. Norouz is the celebration of renewal of the earth and rebirth of nature. Norouz is objective evidence to power of the Almighty God who has created the universe on the basis of a meticulous order. Norouz attests to the fact that God has not created anything for no reason and his power transcends the limits of human thought and understanding.

Ancient civilizations like those in Iran, China, India and Egypt have given birth to interesting and valuable traditions and beliefs, which have grown in the course of time and sometimes have gained value at an international level.

Ancient Iran enjoys a special status in terms of national and ethnic rites and rituals. Iranians have been a talented and civilized nation since a long time ago and planned special ceremonies on various occasions for different days and months of the year, so as to forget about their sorrows and live happily.

One of the most important and praiseworthy festivities which stems from lofty spiritual, mystical and human values is Norouz or celebrations marking the beginning of the new Iranian year, which also coincides with the beginning of the spring. This occasion has been observed by people since a long time ago and some believe that it is a legacy of legendary Iranian kings, Houshang and Jamshid.

According to common beliefs, as Norouz begins, the Sun moves from Zodiac sign known as Pisces (Fishes) to another sign known as Aries (Ram); that is, the Sun is positioned closest to the Earth and this was considered sacred for people of the Earth who considered it the beginning of fertility of the Earth and renewal of the nature.

According to Babylonian calendar, Norouz, in fact, consisted of 12 days and the 13th day was considered inauspicious because ancient astronomers maintained that the day when the Sun is positioned opposite to the Moon would be inauspicious and people should not work on that day. Therefore, people left their homes on that day so as to remain safe from inauspiciousness of the 13th day. They took a patch of green plant, which they had grown for 12 days with them and left it somewhere in the nature to signal fertility of the Earth.

In that day, those who aspired for anything tied knots on the grass and maintained that as nature untied the knots, their problems would be solved.

Since ancient times, Iranians became active a couple of days before Norouz and held different ceremonies each of which was rife in a different region and was performed by different ethnic groups in a way which was special to them.

A customary practice in Norouz was purchasing nuts, sweets, as well as necessary items for Haft Sin.

From ancient times Haft Sin was spread on the ground and Iranian people sat around it. As the new year was starting, family members gathered around it and waited for the moment when the new year began. Haft Sin was a symbol of greenness and vivacity. As time went by, Haft Sin items became limited to a collection of seven fruits whose names started with the Iranian alphabet letter, Sin (equivalent to S in English). Of course, before Islam, people collected Haft Shin (Seven Shin [which is the 16th letter of the Persian alphabet “ش”]), which was changed to Haft Sin after Iranians converted to Islam. The main components of Haft Sin are as follows:

Samanou (juice of germinating wheat mixed with flour): This is produced using germinating wheat and is a sign of worship, power and struggling against weakness and also symbolizes growth and blessing.

Oleaster: It is symbol of wisdom. The smell of its leaves and buds stimulated love and infatuation.

Apple: It is symbol of individual and social health, is a fruit from Heaven, and is prototype of fertility.

Green patch: Symbolizes good temper, sacrifice, and freshness.

Garlic: It is symbol of health and absence of diseases.

Sumac: This is symbol of justice, patience and hope.

Vinegar: This is symbol of accepting hardships.

Coin: It symbolizes wealth and richness.

Incense: It is considered sacred and is used to head off evil eye.

Mirror and candles: They represent light and transparency. Lighting a candle was reminiscent of an old ceremony during which ancient Iranians ignited fires on their rooftops on the first day of the new Iranian year.

Eggs: They are symbol of fertility. In ancient Iranian myths, the world was conceived as an egg with the sky being the shell, while the Earth constituted the yolk.

Goldfish: This is a sign of freshness and movement.

Sweets: They are symbols of happiness.

Traditional bread: It is symbol of plenty and an indispensable part of Iranian tables.

Vegetables and cheese: Eating vegetables is good for health while cheese is a sign of simple lifestyle (as Iranians identified simple life with a mouthful of cheese and bread).

Hyacinth: It is a sign of vigor (and a symbol of the loved one’s hair).

Narcissus: Is a sign of happiness and fragrance (and also a symbol of the loved one’s eyes).

In some Iranian cities, they put an sour orange, as a sign of the Earth, on the water which is poured into a bowl as a sign of light and blessing and maintain that when the new year begins, the sour orange starts to move which is like the Earth’s movement around its axis and is used to symbolize a year full of blessings and prosperity.

There is a custom among Iranian Muslims according to which when the new year begins, all family members come together around Haft Sin table and the eldest member of the family reads out a special prayer which is repeated by others:

O you who change hearts and eyes;
O you who manage night and day;
O you who change people’s circumstances;
Change our circumstances for the best.

After reading the new year prayer, the eldest member of family opens the Holy Quran and recites seven chapters or seven verses which begin with the word “salaam” in order to keep away blights and scourges as well as to protect the family against evil forces and to bring happiness and peace to the family. Then the eldest of the family puts coins between pages of Quran and distributes them among family members as new year gift. According to an ancient tradition, one who is auspicious, leaves the house and comes back carrying flowers, greenery, salt and sweets in order to bring happiness, blessing, and prosperity to all family members and felicitates them on the occasion of the new Iranian year. Usually, father or mother or another family member who is a favorite with all other members does this.

Some people spend early hours of the new year at a shrine or other religious sites because they believe that when the Sun falls on Aries everybody will be granted their wish and whatever they do at that moment, they would be doing all the year through.

Usually, on the first day of the new year, all family members come together at the house of an elder and eat a meal of rice, vegetables and fish. From ancient times, they believed that the food eaten on the new year eve should contain vegetables as a sign of vigor and health for the family.

Visiting relatives is an ancient new year tradition among Iranian families. In fact, it is the same tradition which has been prescribed by Quran and is believed to ensure longevity and prosperous livelihood.

Ancient Iranians considered Norouz as a simulation of the Resurrection. Mowlavi says in one of his poems:

The spring which comes after trees lose their leaves,
Is evidence to truth of Resurrection.

Therefore, people visit the graves of their relatives on the last Thursday and Friday of the year and also on the first Thursday and Friday of the new year.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم