Norouz: A Persian Tradition (Part II)
It appears that the Iranian New Year and the festival of Norouz have their roots in the ancestral traditions of the Iranian territory. In this multi ethnic territory, people are always happy with the arrival of the New Year...
It appears that the Iranian New Year and the festival of Norouz have their roots in the ancestral traditions of the Iranian territory. In this multi ethnic territory, people are always happy with the arrival of the New Year and continue each year to celebrate this change of nature with their own traditions that may vary slightly from one ethnic group in Iran to another. Among these different traditions, we will focus on traditional symbols and New Year's cults among Iranians who usually begin with:
Chahar Shanbeh Souri
The last Tuesday evening of the solar year (in March) is celebrated by the Iranians by a party called Chahar Shanbeh Souri, which could be translated as "Wednesday on fire". All the families and all the neighbors go out into the street, light fires and jump over them. This is the occasion of a large popular rally among the Iranians to celebrate this day together. Large fires are lit. The custom is to jump over, as Catholics do on St. John's Day, to take the strength of the flames.
They say "zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man," which means "I give you my color, you give me your color," referring to the power of fire. This belief dates back to the Zoroastrian period in Persia. The Zoroastrians thought that jumping over the fire would enable them to get rid of their illnesses and acquire the life force of fire, a symbol of health and well-being. This feast of fire is accompanied by a series of ceremonies and popular traditions among which we can mention the fact of offering sweets known under the name of ajil-e moshkel gosha, mixture of hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, raisins, dried white mulberries etc. These sweets are the symbols of health and happiness shared during the past year.
another, even older tradition is to break earthen pots to ward off bad fortune. It is called in Persian kouzeh shekastan.
That same day, the children have the habit of disguising themselves, of walking through the streets of their neighborhood with a pot and a spoon on which they strike loudly and to go to their neighbors to ask for sweets or sweets. According to the Iranian linguist and author of the Persian language dictionary 'Ali Akbar Dehkhoda, this tradition comes from the fact that some women used to ring their neighbors' doors to ask for food, and disguise themselves so as not to be recognized by them.
In the streets, the last days before the New Year, it is also possible to meet Hadji Firouz, traditional character wearing black makeup and dressed in red, equipped with a tambourine who sings and dances wishing his good wishes for the new year.
Nowadays, in general, it is only a street musician, but it is still a symbol of the arrival of Norouz. In the cities, the men who disguise themselves as Hadji Firouz pass among the cars in front of the red lights while dancing and singing: Hadji Firouzeh sali yek rouze; literally: "it's Hadji Firouz, he only goes once a year". People then give them coins to help them on New Year's Eve.
The holidays of Norouz are prepared in the last month of winter, the Iranians then do a great cleaning in the houses to best accommodate the New Year. First of all, from the beginning of March, lentils or wheat are sprouted on a plate which, once lifted, will form a small carpet ten centimeters high and which will be surrounded by ribbon of rather red color. To do this, we take the lentils or wheat that is placed in a plate and then it is covered with a cloth or cotton and that we keep in a relatively sheltered place inside. When germs appear, we discover plates: this is what we call sabzeh, the most important symbol of Norouz, like the Christmas tree among Christians.
During this period also take place ceremonies purchases of Norouz, purchases that must be made in family and consist primarily of the purchase of new clothes, especially for children. We also buy products and foods that will be used for the day of Norouz. During the last moments before the transition to the next year, that is to say, the eve of the new year, the streets are very lively. The next day, the 1st Farvardin (21st of March), the first day of the New Year, begin the traditional 'eid didani,' family visits'. According to tradition, it is always up to the youngest to visit the oldest people in the family. By visiting grandparents, uncles and aunts of their families, children receive gifts or sometimes money.
The whole family gets together around the traditional dish of the first day of Norouz: sabzi polo ba mahi. This is a rice dish with chopped herbs and fragrant parsley, dill and chives. This dish is always served with fish and a dish of koukou sabzi, a kind of omelette with herbs (they are the same herbs as for the sabzi polo).
The main tradition of Norouz is the layout of the haft sin. These are seven elements whose name begins with the letter "s" or sin of the Persian alphabet. They are placed on a tablecloth on the table and stay there until the 13th day after the new year.
Most often, we decorate the table with other objects such as colored eggs (symbol of fertility), candles (happiness), goldfish (life), as well as with the Koran, Divan de Hafez or the Shahnameh and a mirror. Here are some objects with which the Iranians decorate their table haft sin:
sabzeh - wheat germ or lens growing in a dish (symbol of rebirth)
sir - garlic (symbol of medicine)
samanou - very sweet cream made with wheat germ (symbol of abundance)
senjed - dried fruit of jujube (symbol of love)
somaq - sumac berries (symbol of sunrise color and health)
sib - apple (symbol of beauty and good health)
serkeh - vinegar (symbol of age and patience)
sonbol - hyacinth (symbol of the arrival of spring)
sekkeh - coins (symbol of prosperity and fortune)
Norouz lasts twelve days. The 13th day it is called sizdah bedar means "spend the thirteenth day outside". Families go out to picnic to enjoy the arrival of spring; it's a kind of big picnic. Most people leave their homes to go to a park and spend the day in nature. According to the Iranians, it brings good luck throughout the year. Members of the same family eat together and talk at this picnic in the wild to end the party.
At the end of this day, the sabzeh grown for the haft sin (a symbol supposed to retain s and misfortune) are thrown in running water, for example in a river to make disappear the disease and misfortune of the year that is in progress.It is also customary for single girls to tie a knot in park turf before leaving to express their wish to get married before the sizdah bedar of the following year.