By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
The Persian New Year, called Nowruz (“new day” in Persian), celebrates the rebirth of nature in the springtime. The 13 days of fun begin on March 21, one of the two yearly equinoxes (from Latin aequus “equal” and nox “night”) which is when the night and day are approximately the same length (the other occurs around September 22).
After the sun crossed the equator – the middle of the Earth – on March 20, millions of people whose ancestors are from Iran began their festivities by gathering around a table called the haftseen. The ceremonial table is filled with 7 symbolic items representing regrowth and rebirth – the seeb (apple) for beauty, seer (garlic) for health, serkeh (vinegar) for patience, sonbol (hyacinth) for spring, samanu (sweet pudding), sabzeh (sprouts) for health, sekeh (coins) for abundance.
Specialty food items are also prepared, like smoked fish and herbed rice, prepared with parsley, cilantro, and dill. Noodles are often included, to represent the unraveling of challenges in the coming year, while a “karaf” beef stew is served that includes celery, dried lime, and mint over white rice.
During the almost 2 weeks of springtime celebrations, Persians do some much-needed “spring cleaning”, visit close relations like friends and family, and purchase new clothing. On the very last day, since 13 is an unlucky number, families bring sprouts to throw into flowing water on a picnic, to represent “letting go” of bad fortunes.
International Nowruz Day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2010, and is celebrated in countries like the US, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Iran, and Albania.
Featured image courtesy of Sajjadi Livejournal on Flickr. Image of Afghan celebrations in Nowruz courtesy of isafmedia on Flickr.