About Persian new year

In this article of Chiyakotravel we are going to talk about one of the amazing Iran festivals called Persian new year. Nowruz which is Persian new year in Ancient Iran deals with the history, ceremonies and events of Nowruz in ancient Iran. The history of Nowruz and the existence of this celebration is from pre-Islamic Iran and before the Medes and Achaemenids, but its name is not in Avesta. Since three thousand years BC, there have been two feasts in Central and Western Asia. The Creation feast happens in early Fall and the resurrection feast held in early spring. Later, the two fall and spring holidays became one feast and were celebrated in the spring.

Brief Introduction of Persian new year

In Iran, Siavash’s death and resurrection ritual has been linked to Nowruz in a way just some days before Eid, they would mourn for Siavash, and by coming Nowruz they celebrate as if Siavash became alive.
As Aryans entered the area, they brought with them such treasures as Forohar and the retrieval of the spirits, and gradually they merged their faith with previous beliefs in the area. Jamshid, the famous king of Pishdadi, mentioned as the founder of this celebration. From studies about relationship between Iranian Nowruz and Coptic Nowruz (Egyptian Nowruz) and their influence, it concluded that Iranian Nowruz became popular in Egypt under Darius the Great era.
Until a few decades ago, there were no resources about Nowruz and its related traditions older than Sassanid era written by Muslim writers. But with the discovery of Parthian government archives in Tajikistan, it became clear that Nowruz was at the beginning of the spring, more than two thousand years ago, during the Parthian Empire. This festival is one of the oldest customs among Iranians.

Ancient Persian new year

During the whole Sassanid period, Nowruz was the national holiday of all Iranians as known as Persian new year. That is why even people who did not follow the Zoroastrianism but who lived in Iranian dominance participated in this celebration as well. There is evidence that leap years not observed in Sassanid era. The day of Nowruz celebration is one day behind schedule in each 4-year periods and as a result, the time of Nowruz has not always been constant and has been in different seasons through year. The first five days of Farvardin (first month of Iranian calendar) were a public holiday for the general public, which is why it has been Public Nowruz. The sixth day of Faravrdin, which celebrated as a courtyard of Nowruz, was Great Nowruz. Nowruz Spring Celebration customs started with Soori celebration and fireworks. It ended after holding New Year’s Eve on Farvardin 13th. The description of Nowruz and its rituals are full of details in early historiography of Islam, the oldest document of this period belonging to a third century AH scholar. Persian new year has passed such a long time up to now.

Iranian new year
Iranian new year

Nowruz or spring celebration

Spring is the beginning of a new era for the earth which associated with celebration, and gives a new color to cities, villages and houses. Nowruz customs are ritual of welcoming this green season. The arrival of which has given us a good excuse to try and follow the old traditions. Now is the time to learn more about Nowruz and its customs and traditions, and to learn more about this ancient connection with Iranian culture. We want to tell you about the history of Nowruz and take a look at the customs of Noruz in the past and take a closer look at this great celebration of Persian new year.

Persian new year
Persian new year

Where did Nowruz come from?

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Nowruz? Where did this ancient celebration originate and remain in our culture? Where this special Iranian festival stem from?
To know how to create this Persian new year celebration, we can examine it from several aspects:

From a mythological point of view

According to the mythological stories of Iran including the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and the history of Tabari, the history of Nowruz dates back to the time of Jamshid, the first king on earth. According to historical narrations, he would sit on the bed for any occasion and celebrate by doing good deeds. At one of the ceremonies, which coincided with the first day of Farvardin, the radiance of the sun in the king’s crown caused a commotion among people and everyone shouted: “Jamshid” means “greatness shines” and this name is on he introduced. His name is made up of a combination of jam meaning big and shid synonymous with shining.

Jamshid considered this day as a new and happy day because of this event, and also people’s self-praise and self-esteem. Since then, every year, he has celebrated this day as Nowruz. Some other texts consider Keyumars as the founder of Nowruz and have introduced him as the first man on earth.

Nowruz in Shahnameh

Stay until the Farvarding fog comes

to let Havardin shine in the world

When the wind make you sit on leaflet

May the flowers bloom on your head

Let me tell you, everywhere Bijan is

Inwardly, this is clear to me

From a religious point of view

In religion, there are narrations from Nowruz that confirm the holding of this ceremony in the distant years. In the Avesta, the prophet Zarathustra mentioned as the one who introduced the solar calendar to people. It said that he named and celebrated the first day of year, the day and night equinox, as the New Year. Of course, other narrations indicate that Nowruz celebration held in Iran before Zoroaster as Persian new year.

From a scientific point of view and astronomical phenomena

Scientifically and astronomically, Nowruz is the day when the sun shines in the carrying tower (northern hemisphere) and the sun placed on the equator. As a result, day and night are equal, and their length is equal to 12 hours in all parts of the world. These are the signs of the first day of Farvardin, the day when nature wakes up from its hibernation and new life begins on earth. There is not any better time to celebrate this Persian new year.

Nowruz in asteroid
Nowruz in asteroid

Nowruz an Ancient Iranian celebration

If we travel to the heart of history and ancient Iran, we will see that Iranians were a living tribe and they used every opportunity to celebrate, be together, and give thanks to God. Among many celebrations held on various occasions, seven were essential and unavoidable; six were occasional celebrations or anniversaries of six creations:

  • Mid-Yuzarm Gah – Mid-Spring Celebration
  • Mead Yoshum Gah – Mid-Summer Celebration
  • Piti Shahim Gah – The anniversary of the creation of the earth and the season of collecting grain
  • Ia Serum Gah- the anniversary of the creation of the plant
  • Mead Yarim Gah – Anniversary of the creation of a useful four-legged animal
  • Hamsad Midam Gah – the anniversary of the creation of human being

But the seventh celebration of the obligatory holidays in ancient Iran was Nowruz. A celebration that still remains in force after thousands of years and still considered a mandatory holiday in Iran today. In holding this celebration, special customs observed some of which still practiced today. Of course, they have changed a lot, but they still retain their originality of Persian new year.

Nowruz celebration throughout history

In each of the historical periods of Nowruz, it was celebrated in a special way and after many changes, it has transformed to its modern way as today people celebrate Persian new year.

Nowruz in Sassanid period

Nowruz ceremonies held in the court of Sassanid and Parthian kings with special splendor. During the days of Nowruz, the king did not command or forbid to show compassion, and in those blessed days he did not hurt anyone.

During the Sassanid period, this ceremony lasted for at least 6 days and included two periods of small or public Nowruz and big or special Nowruz. Little Noruz held from the first to the fifth of Farvardin and big Nowruz held on the sixth day of Farvardin. During the small Noruz celebrations, each day belonged to one of the classes of people who had to go to see the king:

  • The first day of Farvardin: the general public
  • The second day of Farvardin: the peasants, the servants of the fire temples
  • The third day of Farvardin: Clergy and priests
  • The forth day of Farvardin: Members of the royal family, men, people of the country and army commanders
  • The fifth day of Farvardin: Nobles
  • The sixth day of Farvardin: Nadiman and the consultants

The king listened to each of them, and if they had a problem, he would order a solution. Nowruz Bozorg also belonged to Shah’s relatives and only they came to him.

During this time, twelve columns of raw clay were erected in the courtyard of the king’s house 25 days before the New Year, and they were given a variety of grains (rice, wheat, barley, peas, millet, and beans). These pillars remained in place until the 16th of Farvardin, and were then happily collected. People believed that each of the plants planted on the pillars would bear fruit sooner, there would be a better crop that year.

Another common custom during Sassanid era was to happily sprinkle water on each other at the beginning of the New Year on the morning of Nowruz and hold a celebration as a sign of Persian new year. Since the time of Hormizd I (the third Sassanid king), lighting fires on the night of Nowruz has become commonplace, and since then, during the time of Hormizd II, drawing coins has been established as a holiday in Nowruz. Eating a piece of fresh cheese with some yogurt was another Nowruz ceremony during the Sassanid era and was considered a feast to celebrate the Persian new year.

Nowruz during the Achaemenid period

In the surviving inscriptions from Achaemenid period, there is no direct reference to a celebration called Nowruz, but the same inscriptions indicate that this celebration held in their time. Evidence suggests that the special Nowruz ceremony held from March 12 to May 10.

Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty in 538 BC, declared Nowruz a national holiday. Promoting soldiers, clearing public places and private homes, and pardoning convicts were among the highlights of Nowruz celebration.

During the reign of Darius I, Persepolis chosen as the venue for Nowruz. Some researchers even believe that this place built to celebrate Nowruz, but others completely reject it. On the occasion of Nowruz in 416 BC, the king struck a gold coin with a shooting soldier behind it.

Ancient Persian new year in Iran
Ancient Persian new year in Iran

Persian new year is an amazing custom left from thousands of years ago with a historical and cultural background of our ancestors. In 2009, the ancient celebration of Nowruz with Iranian roots was included in the calendar of the UN General Assembly.

Nowruz, March 21, is a holiday with Iranian roots that is more than 3,000 years old and is celebrated by more than 300 million people today.

For the first time, Nowruz 1391 was celebrated in the public courtyard of the United Nations and UNESCO hosted by Iran, and the world recognized this valuable cultural heritage. This great festival has been inscribed as Iran cultural and intangible heritage at UNESCO.

If you are wondering to travel to Iran and visit Iran during Persian new year holidays, you can always trust us issuing your Iran visa. Each city of Iran has special traditions for celebrating this Persian new year. Cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd, Kashan, Kerman from North to South and East to West prepare themselves with buying new clothes, cleaning up their places, getting ready for hosting family and friends and buying sweets, fruits, and nuts.

What Iranians do today on Nowruz?

Nowruz, like many other celebrations, has its own customs that are held in Iran for 13 days. The Persian new year celebration includes:

1) Haft Seen Table

Haft Seen is the most significant symbol of Nowruz and the beginning of the year is usually celebrated next to it. For a long time now, this colorful tablecloth has accommodated 7 growing and edible foods that start with the letter “Sin” in Persian language:

  • Sabzeh (سبزه) – wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
  • Samanu (سمنو) – sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
  • Senjed (سنجد) – dried oleaster Wild Olive fruit – symbolizing love
  • Seer (سیر) – garlic – symbolizing the medicine and health
  • Seeb (سیب) – apple – symbolizing beauty
  • Somāq (سماق) – sumac fruit – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  • Serkeh (سرکه) – vinegar – symbolizing old-age and patience

There are also many other elements used in Haft seen which have special meaning behind.

  • The holy Qur’an
  • Divan-e Hafez, a Persian poetry book
  • a mirror
  • a goldfish in a bowl represents life and the end of astral year-picas (Goldfish is originally a symbol of Chinese new year)
  • a low brazier full of fire
  • a lamp
  • sprays of cypress or pine
  • pomegranates
  • painted eggs
  • coins as a symbol of wealth
  • candles for each member of the family

The long-standing tradition is that at the time of delivery, everyone should be at the table of Haft Seen and wish each other happiness, joy and health in the new year.

Haft seen

2) Eating Reshteh Polo and Ash-e Reshteh

After New Year, the first meal is Reshteh Polo or Ash-e Reshteh. According to the old belief eating Reshteh which means string causes the head of the family to be in charge of the work until the end of the year. The food is a delicious Persian food that is prepared with pilaf and rice noodles along with fried dates and raisins, and they are served at Nowruz ceremonies.

Ash-e Reshteh
Ash-e Reshteh

3) Eidi and gifts

One of the long-standing traditions in Nowruz is to giving and taking gifts. The little ones will be so excited to give new banknotes and are eagerly waiting to receive them. Before the end of the year, the elders put the Eid banknotes as a sign of blessing on the Quran. After the beginning of the year, they give them to the younger ones as Eidi. Instead of banknotes, some offer gifts to their loved ones.


4) Visiting each other

Probably in the past, people knew that one day we would be so preoccupied with worries and everyday life that we would not even have the opportunity to see our relatives. The long tradition of seeing and visiting each other in Nowruz is a good excuse to come together at least once a year and share the joy of this ancient celebration with our loved ones.

5) Wearing new clothes

It is customary to wear new clothes during the Nowruz holidays and during visits to show off the new clothes, so that they can be seen in the best possible way during this celebration.

Nowruz customs
Nowruz customs

6) 13 be dar

The thirteenth day of Nowruz celebrations is known as the 13 be dar, and is considered the culmination of Nowruz celebrations. An old belief is that one should leave home on this day to drive away misfortune and go to nature. Today, in the official calendar of Iran, this day is named as Nature Day and is celebrated by families across the country by setting up picnics.

13 be dar

Nowruz in other countries

Nowruz is a ritual that is held not only in Iran but also in other countries of the world. Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and several other countries celebrate the festival with their own customs and share in the joy of the renewal of the earth as Persian new year.