0216 GMT April 16, 2021
Norouz is the celebration of the beginning of the Iranian New Year and one of the oldest Iranian festivities, which dates back to ancient Iran and prehistoric times.
Norouz originated in Iran and the civilization of the Iranian Plateau that entails large parts of the Caucasus, Central Asia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, as well as parts of India, China, and even modern Europe.
Accordingly, Norouz is still celebrated in many of these countries and is included in their calendars as an official holiday.
The remarkable thing about Norouz is that although Greater Iran (Persia) was divided into different countries, with different religions, ethnicities, and governments, Norouz is still revered and celebrated with almost similar traditions.
International Norouz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday. Under the agenda item of “culture of peace”, the member states of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan prepared and introduced a draft resolution (A/64/L.30) entitled, ‘International Day of Norouz’, to the 64th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations for its consideration and adoption.
Iran Daily conducted an exclusive interview with Ardeshir Khorshidian, the president of the Tehran Mobed Association, who is also a historian and researcher on ancient Iran, to know more about the background of Norouz, its traditions and the secret of its permanence.
The full text of the interview follows:
IRAN DAILY: Please explain the features of Norouz, which distinguish it from similar festivities.
ARDESHIR KHORSHIDIAN: Norouz is the celebration of the beginning of spring, and its precise date was carefully calculated. Iranians have always been pioneers in astronomy and its calculations, thus it is said that Norouz is the only celebration in the world which occurs at a single instant.
At the instant of Norouz, it is customary for people to sit in front of the haft seen table and wish for peace, tranquility, health and happiness for all people. In fact, there was accurate calculations for determining the time of the beginning of spring and the celebration of Norouz since ancient times. At this moment, the center of the Sun is in the same place as the Earth’s equator and the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. There is an equal 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the instant of Norouz. It is interesting that how Iranians could reach such exact calculations in ancient times.
Is Norouz a religious occasion and only related to Zoroastrianism?
There are various sayings about the origin of Norouz; the time of its origin is not known properly because this holiday dates back to prehistoric times. The birth date of Zarathustra is the 6th of Farvardin (the first month of the Iranian calendar) and despite the fact that Iranian empires, including the Medes, the Achaemenids and the Parthians, were all Zoroastrians, they did not celebrate this date as Norouz. If they did so, the celebration became only for Zoroastrians. But Norouz is celebrated not for a specific religion; it is for all.
The concept of unity among Iranians is once again raised and all Iranians celebrate the event irrespective of their religion. The same happened during the Iraqi-imposed War (1980-1988), in which, regardless of religion and ethnicity, all Iranians were present.
What’s the secret behind Norouz’s longevity after thousands of years?
As I said, the occasion does not belong to a specific religion; people of different faiths, race, language, and belief celebrate Norouz, and you could say it’s a worldwide event.
On the other hand, through our rich mythological history, dating back to the Medes, different ethnicities and religions have learned to coexist peacefully and respect each other, which also applies to Norouz rituals among Iranians and 18 different nations – once a part of the ancient Persian Empire.
Would you please tell us a bit about Norouz practices and its main symbol haft seen?
Iranians start spring cleaning usually 10 days before Norouz, which includes their houses as well as their hearts and souls. They also set a haft seen table in their homes.
Sumac, Senjed and Samanu are three of the seven items of the table setting, which stand for seven different concepts. Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree), for instance, represents wisdom and effort. Seeb (apple) and Sabzeh (sprouted wheat), standing for solidarity, are among the symbols. Seer (garlic) reminds us that life is full of highs and lows and we have to cope with the bitter parts of it. Sekkeh (coin) tells us to remain solid as a coin and take control of our egos.