Celebrating Nowruz: A Guide to the Persian New Year

traditional food and table setting on persian new year nowruz

Nowruz is one of the most important celebrations in Persian culture, marking the beginning of the Persian New Year. Ever since I first met my Persian husband, I have had the pleasure of participating in this vibrant and meaningful celebration with my husband and his family. In this post, I’ll share with you the fascinating history, traditions, and symbols of Nowruz and how it is celebrated in Persian households.

We’ve worked really hard to amalgamate the customs and traditions of both of our cultures in our household but Nowruz has quickly become my favourite. I would much rather celebrate the beginning of a new year on the first day of Spring than on a gloomy December 31st.

History of Nowruz

Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in Persian culture. It is believed that Nowruz originated in Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion that dates back to the 6th century BC. The word “Nowruz” translates to “new day” and signifies the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature. Nowruz is celebrated on the vernal equinox, which falls on March 20th or 21st each year.

Nowruz has been celebrated by Persians for centuries, and its traditions and customs have evolved over time. In the 3rd century AD, the Sassanian Empire made Nowruz an official holiday and introduced the tradition of the haft seen, a symbolic table setting that includes seven items that begin with the Persian letter “sin.” The haft seen has become one of the most recognizable and beloved symbols of Nowruz, and it represents the hopes and wishes for the New Year.

Traditions of Nowruz

Nowruz is a time for renewal, growth, and unity. The celebration typically lasts for 13 days and is filled with a variety of traditions and customs. Here are some of the most important traditions of Nowruz:

Haft Seen

food table spring flower
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

The Haft Seen table is the centrepiece of Nowruz celebrations in Iran, and it is an important tradition that is deeply symbolic. Haft means “seven” in Persian, and Seen is the Persian name for the letter S, which is the first letter in each of the seven items that are traditionally placed on the table. Each of these items has its own significance and symbolism, and together they represent the hopes and wishes for the New Year. Let’s take a closer look at each of the seven items that make up the Haft Seen table.

Sabzeh (wheat or lentil sprouts representing rebirth)
Samanu (sweet pudding representing wealth)
Senjed (dried fruit representing love)
Serkeh (vinegar representing patience)
Seeb (apple representing beauty and health)
Somagh (sumac representing sunrise)
Sir (garlic representing medicine)

Each item on the haft seen has a specific symbolic meaning and represents a wish for the New Year. In addition to the seven items that begin with the Persian letter “sin,” the haft seen may also include other items such as coins, candles, and a mirror.

Chaharshanbe Suri

via Tappersia

On the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz, Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri, also known as the festival of fire. This tradition involves lighting bonfires in the streets and jumping over the flames while reciting the phrase “give me your redness and take back my sickly pallor.” The tradition of Chaharshanbe Suri dates back to pre-Islamic times and is believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck and health for the New Year.

Visiting Family and Friends

During Nowruz, it is customary to visit family and friends and exchange gifts and well wishes for the New Year. Iranians also participate in the tradition of “Eidi,” which involves giving and receiving money as a gift to symbolize good fortune and blessings for the New Year.

Cleaning the House

Before Nowruz, Iranians participate in “Khaneh Tekani,” which translates to “shaking the house.” This tradition involves thoroughly cleaning the house from top to bottom to prepare for the New Year and get rid of any negativity or bad energy from the previous year.


via Persian Mama

On the 13th day of Nowruz, Iranians participate in the tradition of Sabzeh-Gir, which involves taking the sprouts from the haft seen and tying them into a knot before throwing them into a body of water. This tradition symbolizes letting go of the past and moving forward into the New Year.

Nowruz Cuisine

Nowruz is also a time for enjoying delicious Persian cuisine, and there are several dishes that are traditionally eaten during the celebration. Here are some of the most popular dishes:

  • Sabzi Polo Mahi: This dish consists of herbed rice and grilled fish and is typically served on the first day of Nowruz.
  • Reshteh Polo: This dish consists of rice mixed with noodles and is typically served on the second day of Nowruz.
  • Kuku Sabzi: This is a type of Persian herb frittata made with eggs, herbs, and spices and is typically served as a side dish during Nowruz.
  • Dolmeh Barg: This dish consists of stuffed grape leaves filled with ground beef, rice, and herbs and is typically served as an appetizer during Nowruz.
  • Ash Reshteh: This is a type of Persian soup made with beans, noodles, and herbs and is typically served on the thirteenth day of Nowruz.

Nowruz is a vibrant and meaningful celebration that is deeply rooted in Persian culture. By marrying into the culture, I have had the privilege of participating in this joyous celebration with my husband and his family. Nowruz is a time for renewal, growth, and unity, and its traditions and customs are a testament to the rich history and culture of Persia. I hope this guide has given you a comprehensive understanding of Nowruz and its significance in Persian culture, as well as some mouth-watering dishes to try during the celebration. Happy Nowruz!

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Aneta Alaei
Aneta Alaei

Aneta is a Toronto-based mom of four that loves a good meal, great company, and learning something new. In her free time, you can find her trying to keep yet another plant alive.

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