Norooz: Celebrating the Persian New Year

By ABIGAIL RUSSELL

The smell of rose water accompanied me as I reflected on the past year. As I entered this year’s Persian New Year celebration, I looked at myself in the little mirror on the door of McHugh Commons and prepared to ring in the New Year as they do in Iran. 

Bita Kavoosi ’20, the organizer of this event, compares Persian New Year, or Norooz, to “spring cleaning” because many observe the holiday by deep-cleaning their homes. However, as Kavoosi explains, this idea has a different meaning in Iran — it’s the basis of an age-old national holiday. In addition to the cleansing of the home, Norooz observers celebrate the season of new life and wish for good luck in the year ahead.

In the context of the Persian year, Norooz marks the end of the old year and the beginning of a new one. Persian New Year always occurs on the day of the vernal or spring equinox; the year begins specifically at the second the equinox begins, not at midnight like the New Year that many in the U.S. are familiar with. However, the holiday is actually celebrated for much more than just one evening, as most observers of Norooz begin preparing for the celebration about three weeks prior to the equinox, and the celebrations continue for the following two weeks. 

Photos By Matthew Maciag

One aspect of such preparation is the assembly of the “Haft Seen.” Kavoosi reports that Haft Seen is a collection of items, each of which symbolize a different hope for the new year. Seven core items are always included in the Haft Seen: the Sabzeh, Senjed, Sib, Seer, Samanu, Serkeh, and Sumac. These items are, respectively, some kind of sprout or grass, dried fruit, apples, garlic, sweet pudding, vinegar, and a Persian spice. They represent rebirth and renewal, love, beauty and health, medicine and taking care of oneself, wealth and fertility, the wisdom that comes with age, and the sunrise of a new day. 

According to Kavoosi, “The most important thing to know about [Norooz’s] origin story is that it’s rooted in Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that predates both Christianity and Islam.” 

On the 13th day after the equinox, Iranians observe Sizdah Bedar, during which they typically spend time outside with their families and friends, picnicking or hiking. When the day is over, it is custom to throw the Sabzeh, or the sprout or grass that was part of their Haft Seen, into a body of water. This is a cleansing action that symbolizes sending away all unhappiness of the past year. 

On Sunday, March 31, the Norooz celebration consisted of traditional Iranian foods, a Haft Seen arrangement, and a presentation on Persian New Year. Every year, millions celebrate Persian New Year all around the world, and yet almost everyone I spoke to at Colorado College’s Norooz event was previously unfamiliar with the tradition. 

“I can’t believe I had never even heard of such a widely celebrated holiday,” Gaby Jadotte ’22 said. 

Those who attended found meaning and joy in the celebration, and they plan to return next year. As for our little bubble … it grew a little bit bigger. 

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