Spring always feels so exuberant. After a cold, dark winter, spring sprouts new life with the budding of flower and trees, days become longer and temperatures warmer. Because springtime feels like a celebration on its own, I particularly enjoy the Persian New Year and celebrations around the spring solstice. Following a 3,000 year old tradition, in harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Iranian New Year celebration, Nowrooz, always begins on the first day of spring. Nowrooz means new day in Farsi and refers to a new beginning or New Year.
Part of the Nowrooz celebration includes decorating a table called“Haft Seen,” which is a ritualistic table of seven items with names all beginning with the letter S. “Haft” means seven in Farsi and “Seen” is the fifteenth letter of the Persian alphabet, which means the same as the letter S in the English language.
In the month of March many Persian homes are beautifully decorated with Haft Seen tables similar to the decorative Christmas holiday traditions that Christians follow. Haft Seen items and their symbolic meaning and cultural significance include:
- Sabzeh: Sprouts of lentil or wheat represents fertility and the rebirth of nature.
- Sib: An apple represents natural beauty and health.
- Samanu: A pudding where common wheat sprouts are transformed and give new life as a sweet pudding and symbolizes affluence.
- Sumac: fruit is a berry used as a spice. Since the spice is the color of a sunrise; the appearance of the sun signifies good conquering evil.
- Senjed: The sweet, dry fruit of the oleaster when in full bloom its’ fragrance and its fruit make people fall in love.
- Sir: Garlic represents health and symbolizes medicine.
- Serkeh: Vinegar symbolizes age and patience.
These seven items are the important, ritualistic items for the Haft Seen table. However, many Persians also include other symbolic pieces for a truly elaborate centerpiece. According to Wikipedia, a slightly less traditional Haft Seen may also include:
- Sonbol – the fragrant hyacinth flower – symbolising the coming of spring
- Sekkeh – coins – symbolizing prosperity
- Iranian pastries such as Baqlava ,
- Tut – white berries, Nān-Noxodchi )
- Ājil – dried nuts, berries and raisins
- Lit candles symbolizing enlightenment and happiness
- A mirror symbolizing truth, the reflection of the real world
- Sekanjabin – a sweet mint syrup
- Decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family symbolizing fertility
- A bowl with goldfish symbolizing life
- A poetry book, such as the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafez, or a religious text such as the holy Quran or Avesta
Nowrooz festivities last throughout March with many family and social gatherings celebrating the connection of life.
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