(Persia Digest) – Nowruz is one of the oldest celebrations of Iran marking the beginning of the New Year on the spring equinox.

Nowruz which is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, etc, has its own special traditions.

A major Nowruz custom is Charshanbeh Suri which is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of each year by making bonfires. Charshanbeh Suri has recently undergone essential changes due to the use of dangerous inflammable materials but still after thousands of years, it has kept its original features. Jumping over a bonfire, ghashoghzani (spoon banging), and eating nuts are common traditions of the evening of the last Wednesday of each year. The bonfire will be kept alive from the early hours of the evening until hours after midnight and is an announcement of Nowruz approaching.

Another tradition of Nowruz in khaneh takani (shaking the house = spring cleaning) during which every place in the house and its furniture are completely washed and cleaned. The custom is rooted in the significance given by Iranians to the cleanliness of their homes, particularly when they are entertaining.

Buying nuts, cookies and new clothes is another common practice before Nowruz. Wearing the best new clothes is one of the necessities of Nowruz to the extent that, according to some old travelogues written by foreigners, if some people did not have enough money to buy new clothes for Nowruz they would borrow it.

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The Haft Sin spread is another tradition of Nowruz and is prepared a couple of days before the first day of the New Year. Haft Sin consists of seven foods that begin with the Persian letter ‘Sin’ (S) and is the most important symbol of Nowruz celebrations as seen in pictures.

Nowruz-Khani or Bahar-Khani is a ritual sing song on the eve of spring. This tradition was more common in the past but currently it is observed only in a few Iranian provinces. Nowruz-khanha are travelling singers who move from city to city or village to village singing a memorized or improvised song in appreciation of spring.

The last ritual before Nowruz Eve is to cook a special dish. Iranians cook Sabzi-Polo Mahi (dill rice and fish) for the occasion. In the past, since rice was not available in every house, it was customary to cook it on Nowruz day in order to eat a different meal on this occasion.

The first four days of the New Year are official holidays in Iran, but for students the holidays last 13 days. Over Nowruz, people wear their best clothes and go to visit each other, especially the elder members of their families. It is said that giving coins as a Nowruz gift began under the rule of Hormizd II, a king of the Sassanid Empire. The tradition is still observed but in new forms including giving money or exchanging other gifts.

The Nowruz celebrations end by going to nature for a picnic on the 13th day of spring which is called Sizdah-bedar. On the morning of the 13th day of the New Year, people leave their homes and go to parks, gardens or woods and stay outdoors until the evening.

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