Nowruz is a week long celebration, to welcome in the new year, and celebrate the triumph of light over dark.

Khoune Takouni: Shaking the House

Before one can welcome the light, the dark must be tossed out. Nowruz begins with an extensive spring cleaning. Everything is cleaned, aired out, items in disrepair are fixed or replaced. The spring is welcomed with shopping, everyone buys at least one new outfit, and this is the time of year when people are likely to change hairstyles.

Every household sets up a Haft Sin table, and on the day of spring, families will dress in their new clothing, and gather around the table to await the exact moment when spring begins. Once spring has arrived, gifts are given, and they go out to visit family and close friends. These visits are short, and usually begin with the youngest families going out to visit the eldest, then moving down the line in order of age.

As night nears, fires are lit upon rooftops, to welcome friendly spirits and frighten away evil ones.

Haft Sin (Seven S's)

The Haft Sin table is a decorative table set up with seven foods that begin with the letter S.

The Haft Sin items are:

  • Sabzeh: This is a dish symbolizing rebirth that is planted with wheat, barley or lentil sprouts. Twenty days before the festival begins, twelve clay pillars (these represent the 12 months of the year, so if Alhambra has a different number of months, change this number) are set up in royal palaces. Cereal grains (wheat, oat, rice, beans, lentils, millets, lima beans, peas, and sesame seeds) are grown on top of these, and the health of these plants is taken to represent the prosperity and luck of the upcoming year.
  • Samanu: This is a sweet pudding made from wheat germ that symbolizes wealth.
  • Senjed: This is the dried fruit of the lotus tree which symbolizes love.
  • Sir: Garlic represents health.
  • Sib: Apples represent beauty and health. Married couples will sometimes call in a seer to deliver their fortune for the upcoming year. As a part of this ceremony, the seers will slice an apple in half, presenting a half to each spouse to prevent bad fortunes.
  • Somaq: Sumac berries represent the sunrise.
  • Serkeh: Vinegar represents age and wisdom.

Other items on the table may include:

These tables are usually elaborate, as elaborate as the family can manage. Other items often found on the Haft Sin table are:

  • Sonbol: Hyacinth (flower).
  • Sekkeh: Coins to represent wealth and good fortune.
  • Traditional pastries such as baklava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
  • Aajeel: A snack of dried nuts, berries and raisins.
  • Bowl of fire: Wild rue and other sacred herbs are burnt in a bowl of fire to ward off evil spirits.
  • Mirrors symbolize cleanness and honesty.
  • Candles: There are often lit candles for every child in the household around the bowl of fire or the mirror, to bring wisdom, good fortune and happiness.
  • Decorated eggs to represent fertility and good fortune.
  • A bowl of water with goldfish to represent life.
  • Rosewater to cleanse away the darkness and misfortunes of the previous year.
  • Books of poetry.
  • Hyacinth and sour oranges

Chaharshanbe Suri: The Day of Fire

This is the climax of the celebrations, and occurs in the middle of the week. It is a grand celebration of the triumph of light over dark, and good over evil.

Haji Firouz - A man chosen to herald in the coming of light. He paints his skin black, and dresses in fine red clothing. Shortly before sunset, he dances through the streets singing and playing tambourines, to call people to the lighting of fires.

Just prior to sunset people begin lighting bonfires, which must be kept lit all night. They are intended to prevent the sun from setting, and keep the night bright. once night falls, fire dancers begin performing, moving from bonfire to bonfire. People leap over the bonfires, singing:

"Orkhi-ye to az man, zardi-ye man az to." (Your fiery red color is mine, and my sickly yellow paleness is yours.)

The spirits of the dead walk the streets, as do good and evil demons. The good demons are drawn to the fires and welcomed. Children dress in shrouds to drive off the evil demons, and race through the streets banging on bowls and pots with spoons. They visit houses and bonfire celebrations, begging for treats.

A common treat that is given out is Ajil-e Moshkel-Gosha (Ajeel, or Problem Solving Nuts); a mixture of seven dried nuts and fruits, pistachios, roasted chic peas, almond, hazelnuts, figs, apricots, and raisins.

Kuze Shekasten: Some families will fill earthen jars with the items that break over the year. Before heading out to the fires, these jars are smashed and tossed out, to rid the household of ill luck. These may be large jars for the entire hosuehold, smaller jars for personal fortunes, or both.

Gereh-goshaÆi: Many people will tie knots in their shawls, scarves or handkerchiefs, and venture out. The first person they run into at the bonfires unties the knots, to remove and release the previous year's back luck.

Fal-G√sh: This is the prediction of the fortunes of the upcoming year through the random conversations of those around. Those practising this will settle themselves near a bonfire that has been lit by someone unknown to them, and simply listen to whatever snatches of conversation drift their way.

Sizdah Bedar

The final day of Nowruhz. People spend this day out of doors. They gather in parks, feast, sing, dance and socialize. To close the festivities, the sabzeh is removed from the Haft Sin tables, and throw into water. This drives evil spirits and misfortune from the house.

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