Nowruz: Most Important Iranian Festival


Nowruz: Most Important Iranian Festival

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Nowruz is an Iranian festival that cherishes the arrival of spring, typically falling around March 21st on the Gregorian calendar, coinciding with Farvardin 1 on the Solar Hijri calendar. This celebration lasts 13 days, marking the beginning of the new year. Nowruz has been celebrated for approximately 2500 years in Iran and is also celebrated in other Persian-speaking countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and others.

Beginning of a New Day

Nowruz, which translates to ‘new day’ in Persian, signifies the commencement of the new year according to the solar Hijri calendar, coinciding with the arrival of spring. It holds significant importance in Iran, being the most eagerly expected event of the year. Various traditions are observed by people across different regions before and during this celebration, with one of the most widespread being Haftsin, also known as the Haftsin Table.


The word ‘Haftsin’ is a combination of two Persian words: ‘Haft,’ meaning ‘seven,’ and ‘sin,’ which is one of the letters in the Persian alphabet, pronounced like the English letter ‘s.’ Together, these parts signify seven items that start with the letter ‘sin.’ This explanation clarifies why it is customary for Iranians worldwide to set up a table on the first day of Nowruz containing seven symbolic items, all of which begin with the letter ‘sin’ in Persian: Sabzeh (wheat, barley, bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish), Samanu (a delicious Iranian dessert), Senjed (fruit from a lotus tree), vinegar, apple, garlic, and sumac.

Haftsin table

Traditions of Nowruz

During Nowruz, Iranians observe various traditions that contribute to the festive atmosphere. For instance, parents often buy new clothes for their children, symbolizing renewal and freshness. Additionally, elderly family members, such as grandparents, customarily give money as a gift to younger individuals in their families, a gesture known as “Eidi.” Moreover, families come together and visit one another, fostering a sense of unity and joy as they celebrate the occasion.

In addition to the festivities during Nowruz, there are several pre-celebration traditions observed by Iranians. These include thoroughly cleaning and preparing the household to host guests, symbolizing the start of a fresh new year. Another tradition involves purchasing gilly flowers for their sweet fragrance. Additionally, it is customary for people to prepare a special dish called “Sabzi Polo Mahi” on the day before Nowruz. This dish typically consists of fish and rice and is enjoyed by families as part of the pre-celebration preparations.

sabzi polo mahi
Sabzi Polo Mahi

A few days before Nowruz, Iranians celebrate an important festival called “Chaharshanbe Suri,” which takes place on the last Wednesday of the Solar Hijri year, known as “Chaharshanbe” in Persian, meaning Wednesday. On this special day, people take to the streets and celebrate late into the night.

According to ancient Iranian beliefs, fire symbolizes purity and has the power to cleanse humans of sins. As part of this tradition, some individuals jump over bonfires as a symbolic act of purification, honoring their ancestors’ customs. However, others prefer safer forms of entertainment, such as gathering with family and enjoying a delicious meal.

Chaharshanbe Suri
Chaharshanbe Suri

Nowruz Holidays

In Iran, the period between the 1st and the 5th day of Nowruz (around March 21st to 26th) is officially designated as holidays. However, schools and universities remain closed until the 13th day of the festival.

Nowruz spans a total of 13 days, concluding with a special day known as Nature Day. On this day, many families choose to venture outdoors to natural areas such as countryside, parks, and other lush environments to appreciate and celebrate nature.

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