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Nowruz Rituals. How to Celebrate Nowruz?

nowruz rituals how to celebrate nowruz

Are you ready to enter the fascinating world of the Nowruz rituals? Nowruz has been celebrated worldwide with many symbolical rituals. Let’s get inspiration from them about how to celebrate Nowruz.

Let’s start. Shall we?

How long does Nowruz last? How many days is Nowruz celebrated?

In different areas, people celebrate the Nowruz festival all over the world. So the duration of the Nowruz festival depends on where you are. 

In Iran and Afghanistan, it is celebrated for two weeks. In Azerbaijan, on the other hand, preparations for Nowruz usually begin a month earlier.

Why is Nowruz in March?

Nowruz is the celebration of the spring equinox. That is why it is celebrated in March.

Why is Nowruz important?

Nowruz is one of the oldest celebrations continuously in human history. 

It is celebrated in many different countries around the world.

These two characteristics of Nowruz make it a potent energy space to practice rituals of connection.

Why is Nowruz celebrated, and what does Nowruz celebrate?

Nowruz is celebrated to celebrate life in all its forms. 

It is the celebration of balance, fertility, and rebirth. 

It is a way to show our gratitude to the Creator and a hopeful day to move forward.

Where is Nowruz celebrated?

Places where Nowruz is a public holiday include:

Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Nowruz is celebrated by Kurds in Iraq and Turkey and by the Iranis, Shias, and Parsis in the Indian subcontinent and diaspora.

Diverse communities have celebrated it for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia.

Which countries celebrated Nowruz?

It has been celebrated as a holiday and tradition by many states in history. The leading ones are Anatolian principalities, Ancient Egypt, Iran, Safavi, Sassanid, Mongols, Seljuks, and Ottomans.

Nowruz, celebrated as a national holiday in the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires, was praised by feasting poems called Nevruziye and feasts.

As a specially prepared paste called Nevruziye, a culture left over from the Ottoman period, Mesir paste festivals are still held on March 21 in Manisa today.

Among the Alevis and Bektashis, special rites were held in Nowruz, celebrated as the “Nine of March” in some regions, referring to the old calendar.

Zoroastrians and Yezidis also accepted March 21 as a holiday.

At this feast, meals are distributed, games are played, and the first spring day is celebrated.

Nowruz rituals, customs, and traditions. How to celebrate Nowruz?

How do Iranians celebrate Nowruz?

Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran.

Nowruz, the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, is celebrated as a 5-day public holiday in Iran.

Nowruz traditions in Iran

Nowruz traditions in Iran #1. Chaharshanbe Suri

Nowruz eve in Iran. 

It is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. 

It is usually celebrated in the evening by performing rituals such as jumping over bonfires and setting off firecrackers and fireworks.

Nowruz fire jumping rhyme

Iranians sing the poetic line “my yellow is yours, your red is mine” during the festival, which means “my weakness to you and your strength to me.” 

They ask the fire to remove diseases and problems and replace them with warmth, health, and energy.

Spoon banging 

It is a tradition observed on the eve of Charshanbe Suri, similar to the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating. 

In Iran, people dress up, go door to door, bang on plates or bowls with spoons, and receive packaged snacks.

Nowruz traditions in Iran #2. House cleaning and shopping

House cleaning or shaking the house is usually done before the arrival of Nowruz. 

People begin preparations for Nowruz by doing an extensive spring cleaning in their homes, buying new clothes for the new year, and buying flowers.

Nowruz traditions in Iran #3. Visiting family and friends

During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to family, friends, and neighbors. 

As a rule, young people visit their elders first, and the elders reciprocate the visit later.

Nowruz traditions in Iran #4. A Haft-Seen table and Symbolic Roots of Haft-sin

Haft-sin or Haft-seen is an arrangement of seven symbolic objects whose names begin with the letter “س” pronounced as “seen,” the 15th letter in the Persian alphabet; haft is Persian for seven.

It is traditionally shown at Nowruz.

Typically, family members gather around the Haft-sin table before Nowruz and wait for the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the new year.

The number 7 and the letter S are related to the seven Ameshasepantas mentioned in the Zend-Avesta. 

The Haft-Seen table represents nature. 

They refer to the four elements of fire, earth, air, water, and the three life forms of humans, animals, and plants. 

Haft-sin’s origins are not clear. However, people also call it as Zoroastrian Nowruz table.

In modern times, the explanation has been simplified to mean the Haft-sin (Seven things beginning with the letter sin (س)):

Sabze: wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish. The symbol of rebirth and growth.

Samanu: a sweet pudding made from wheat germ. The symbol of power and strength.

Senjed: Persian olive. The symbol of love.

Serke: vinegar. The symbol of patience.

Sib: apple. The symbol of beauty.

Sir: garlic. The symbol of health and medicine.

Somāq: sumac. The symbol of sunrise.

The Haft-sin table may also contain a mirror, candles, painted eggs, water bowl, goldfish, coins, hyacinths, and traditional sweets. 

A “book of wisdom” such as the Qur’an, the Bible, the Avesta, the Šāhnāme of Ferdowsi, or the Divān of Hafez may also be included.

Sonbol: hyacinth. The symbol of spring’s arrival.

Sekkeh: coin. The symbol of wealth and prosperity.

Saat: clock. The symbol of time.

Tokhm-e Morg Rangi: painted eggs for Nowruz. The symbol of fertility.

Ayina: Nowruz mirror. The symbol of self-reflection.

Shem’a: candle. The symbol of enlightenment.

Maahi-ye Qırmız: Nowruz goldfish. The symbol of progress.

Ketaab: book. The symbol of wisdom.

Traditionally, Iranian families go to great lengths to create the most beautiful Haft-Seen table possible, as it not only embodies traditional and spiritual values but is also appreciated by visitors during Nowruz visits as an expression of the families’ aesthetic sensibilities and good taste.

Nowruz traditions in Iran #5. Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz

In Iran, the traditional heralds of the Nowruz festival are Amu Nowruz and Haji Firuz, who appear in the streets to celebrate the New Year.

Amu Nowruz brings gifts to children, much like his counterpart, Santa Claus.

He is the husband of Nane Sarma, with whom he shares a traditional love story in which they can only meet once a year.

According to Wikipedia;

“On the first day of spring every year, Nane Sarma expects Uncle Nowruz to come and visit her, but she falls asleep from exhaustion before he comes.

When she wakes up she realizes that Uncle Nowruz has come and gone. It has also been said that if the two see each other the world will be destroyed.”

This story somehow reminded me of the sleeping scene in Gilgamesh’s story. In which Gilgamesh, in his search for immortality, falls asleep like Nane Sarma.

He is depicted as an elderly, silver-haired man with a long beard, carrying a walking stick and wearing a felt hat, a long coat of blue linen, a sash, a pair of thin-soled ‘giveh’, and linen trousers.

Haji Firuz, a figure with soot-smeared face and hands, dressed in bright red clothes and a felt hat, is the companion of Amu Nowruz. 

He dances through the streets while singing and playing the tambourine.

The exact history of Hajji Firuz is unknown.


According to Wikipedia:

Mehrdad Bahar, a prominent Persian historian, opined in 1983 that the figure of Hajji Firuz might be derived from ceremonies and legends connected to the Mesopotamian deity of agriculture and flocks, Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi).
The blackened face of Hajji Firuz symbolizes his returning from the world of the dead.
His red clothing is the sign of the blood of Siavash and the coming to life of the sacrificed deity.

Quite interesting, though, as spring equinox has been celebrated worldwide as the symbol of rebirth and remembering the stories of Ishtar and Tammuz and the story of Persephone and Inanna, as you can see here

Nowruz traditions in Iran #6. Sizdah Bedar ceremony

In Iran, the Nowruz holidays last thirteen days. 

On the thirteenth day of the new year, Iranians leave their homes to enjoy nature and picnic outdoors as part of the Sizdebedar ceremony. 

Greens grown for the Haft-sin setting are thrown away, especially running water. 

It is also common for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the greenery leaves together before throwing them away to express the desire to find a mate. 

Another custom associated with Sizdah Bedar is playing jokes and pranks, similar to April Fools’ Day.

How is Nowruz celebrated in Afghanistan?

In Afghanistan, Nowruz is a traditional two-week holiday.

Preparations begin days in advance and are finished after Chaharshanbe Suri, the last Wednesday before New Year.

Among the many customs and traditions, the most important ones are listed below.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #1. Haft Mewa

Unlike Haft Sinnin, which is prepared in Iran, they prepare Haft Mewa, or Seven Fruits, in Afghanistan.

Haft Mewa is like a fruit salad prepared from dried fruits and served in syrup.

These seven fruits are raisins, buckwheat called Senjed, pistachios, dried apricots, walnuts, and almonds or plums.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #2. Preparing Smanak

It is a sweet made from wheat.

Women make this dessert, especially at night, by getting together and singing songs until the first light of the morning.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #3. Gul-e Surkh Festival

Its exact equivalent is the Red Rose Festival. By saying roses, red tulips are mentioned.

This holiday is an old tradition celebrated only in the city of Mazar Sharif and during the first 40 days of the year when the tulips are flourishing.

People come to Mazar Sharif from many parts of the country to participate in this holiday.

This holiday is celebrated together with a unique religious ceremony called Jahenda Bālā.

This special ceremony is held in the blue mosque where the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, is located according to many Sunni Afghans’ beliefs.

Celebrations begin with hanging a cloth banner in the mosque on the first day of the year, namely Nevruz, and continue for forty days with different festivals in the tulip fields and around the mosque.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #4. Buzkashi

Along with other celebrations, a tournament of a game called buzkashi played on horseback is organized by picking up a decapitated goat or sheep and leaving it to the targeted area before the opponent.

Buzkashi matches are primarily held in northern Afghanistan and Kabul.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #5. Special meals

People prepare special meals for Nowruz, especially on the eve of Nowruz.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #6. Trips to the redbud gardens

For picnics, Kabyles go to Istalif, Charikar, or other places where the redbud flowers bloom, especially in the first two weeks of the new year.

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #7. Jashni Dehqān

It means farmers’ holiday. Farmers walk through cities on the first day of the new year to encourage agricultural production. 

Nowruz traditions in Afghanistan #8. Kampirak

In the folklore of Afghanistan, Kampirak and his retinue pass village by village, distributing gathered charities among people.

He is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature yielding the forces of winter. 

The tradition is observed in central provinces, specially Bamyan and Daykundi.

Nowruz in Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, where the preparation for Nowruz usually begins a month earlier, the festival is held every Tuesday for four weeks before the holiday of Nowruz. 

Each Tuesday, people celebrate the day of one of the four elements – water, fire, earth, and wind.

On the holiday eve, the graves of relatives are visited and tended

Nowruz in Azerbaijan #1. Water Wednesday: (“Water Nowruz”)

It is also called Ezel Wednesday. 

Today, arrangements are made in water basins, water resources and wells are cleaned. 

Before sunrise, all people go to water banks or wells and fountains. 

First, he washes his hands and face; then, he jumps over the water. Finally, the injured apply water to their wounds. 

They sprinkle water on people over each other. 

It is believed that those who pass through the water on that day will not get sick throughout the year. 

It is known that people sang folk songs and prayers in honor of the water gods Aban and Yadan in the old Turks.

Nowruz in Azerbaijan #2. Od Wednesday: (“Otaş Nowruz”)

It is also known as Üskü Wednesday or Addı Wednesday. 

This tradition stems from the ancient Turks’ sacred belief or reverence for the Sun and Od (fire). 

According to the traditions, it is believed that if the fire is lit and jumped over the fire, all the evil and ugliness in man will be burned and eliminated.

Nowruz in Azerbaijan #3. Wind Wednesday: (“Nowruz of Salkh”)

Also known as Awakening Wednesday or “Windy Wednesday.”

Hot or warm winds blowing on this day inform people and the nature of the arrival of summer. 

The awakened wind activates the previously awakened water and fire. 

The Yel Baba ceremony in the Nowruz festivals is related to the belief in the Wind God in the past ages. 

That night, Yel Baba is summoned by going under the willow tree or another tree that is considered blessed. 

If Yel Baba (Yel Ata) hears people’s voices and blows and touches the willow branches to the ground, it means that the wishes made will come true.

Nowruz in Azerbaijan #4. Earth Wednesday: (“Earth Navruz”)

It is also called Earth Wednesday or Yılahır Wednesday. 

On the last Wednesday before Nowruz, the earth finally wakes up and begins to breathe. It is believed that since the soil is now ready to be planted, one can sprinkle seeds on it. 

According to the legends, on this day, when people suffered from food shortages in the past, Water, Fire, and Wind came together as guests. It went to the underground temple of Toprak Hatun, asking for food from her and thus awakening the sleeping earth.

In Azerbaijan, children slip around to their neighbors’ homes and apartments on the last Tuesday before Nowruz, knock at the doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds, hiding nearby to wait for candies, pastries, and nuts.

Nowruz in Azerbaijan #5. A Khoncha setting

Khoncha (Azerbaijani: Xonça) is the traditional display of Novruz in the Republic of Azerbaijan. 

It consists of a big silver or copper tray, with a tray of green, sprouting wheat (Samani) in the middle and a dyed egg for each family member arranged around it. 

The table should be with at least seven dishes.

Nowruz in Bahai

Baha’is celebrate this holiday (called Naw-Rúz) as a holiday and a religious holiday.

However, this celebration is the celebration of the new year according to the Baha’i calendar and the celebration of the end of the 19-day fast they kept.

The 19-day (March 2 to March 20 is the month of Alaa according to the Baha’i calendar) 

The time between sunset of the day after the Baha’i fast and the sunset of the next day is the Feast of Fasting.

Today is also the Baha’i New Year.

Today, the last month of the calendar, the month of Ala, has ended, and the first day of Baha has begun. For this reason, today is also called the Nowruz festival.

The festival begins when the sun enters the sign of Aries.

Even if this entrance is one minute before sunset, the fast is immediately broken, and the feast is held. 

At the feast meeting, the tablet of Nevruz (the book in which the words of God in the Baha’i faith are compiled) and prayers are read.

Conclusion

It is incredible to see the commonalities of different rituals in different countries. 

People each year in Nowruz are creating their altar around the four elements and three forms of creation, remembering the sacred number of seven. 

Seeing these rituals may offer new questions, such as what is Nowruz, and why is it celebrated?

Check the article below for answers;

What is Nowruz, and why is it celebrated?

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Rituals Board!



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