Iranians all over the world are celebrating the ancient festival of Nowruz, a holiday that marks the arrival of spring and the Persian New Year.
Nowruz, which means New Day, is the first day of the Persian calendar month of Farvardin. The day usually falls on March 20 but in leap years, it coincides with March 21.
Being originally a festival of Persian origin, Nowruz is also celebrated by hundreds of millions of people from other ethno-linguistic groups in several countries, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.
It is also observed by communities in countries as far away as Georgia, Albania, Kosovo, China and India.
Nowruz festivities are preceded by Chaharshanbeh Suri, a festival of fire during which Iranians make bonfires and jump over them. The symbolic tradition is meant to trade one’s ailments and problems with the flames’ warmth, energy and power of life.
The Persian New Year comes with its own special rituals.
Families take advantage of the two-week holidays to join together for house visits and outdoor fun events. People also exchange gifts and money to congratulate each other on the advent of the New Year. For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change.
One of the special observances of the occasion is the table setting known as Haft Sin, which means the seven S’s in Persian.
The table features seven items all of which start with the letter S in Persian. Families gather around the table and pray while waiting for the exact moment of the spring equinox. These symbolic items represent health, prosperity, longevity, reproduction and happiness for the family members throughout the year.