(Persia Digest) – Iranian culture holds trees in high esteem, if not holy. Cutting and breaking them is frowned upon. In Persian mythology, Mithra (Zoroastrian Divinity (yazata) and guardian of the cattle, harvest, and waters) was born of a pine tree. The pine, or cypress, is an evergreen, heavenly tree representing love.

Today, 6 March, is Arbor Day in Iran. It is a day when all people are encouraged to plant saplings. The Iranian New Year, called Nowruz, begins on the spring equinox on 21 March. The trees are planted in the final days of winter, just before spring time, which is the best time for planting trees.

Many Iranian families still observe the ritual of planting a tree for every child born. This is rooted in ancient Persian culture as trees are closely associated with humans and believed to have life like a human being. To this day, many believe that the sapling planted for the birth of a child gives news of the child as they grow, especially if they live far away from their parents.

Christians decorate a pine tree at Christmas and place presents underneath it. This seems to recall the respect and love of nature in Christianity.

Trees also hold a special place in Ferdowsi’s epic “Shahnameh” [Book of Kings] and old Persian literature. The “Shahnameh” tells of ceremonial rites associated with trees. One of these is the pledge to plant a tree once a vow has been answered. When the legendary hero, Esfandiar, sets out for war with King Arjasb of Turan, he prays to God to return victorious and plant a tree.

Another tradition associated with tree planting was holding ceremonies underneath large shade trees and placing the king’s throne there.

Burials under trees is another instance mentioned in the “Shahnameh”. The body of the Iranian hero, Rostam, is buried in a garden; and Esfandiar hopes he can bury his brother, Farshidvard, in a place where trees have grown.

Persian gardens are a place of rest and beauty. Many of these still remain from old days in many Iranian cities.

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