Nowruz Persian New
Year, one of the oldest
New Year Celebrations

New Year for many is the 31st of December and marks moving into the new Gregorian calendar year. This year, it’s 2019 to 2020. But, have you ever considered that there are several other different New Year’s around the world. The Nowruz Persian New Year is probably not a New Year like you know it.

The Nowruz Persian New Year is probably not a New Year like you know it.

New Year for many is the 31st of December and marks moving into the new Gregorian calendar year. This year, it will be 2020 to 2021. But, have you ever considered that there are several other different New Year’s around the world? Chinese New Year may be one of the most heard about New Year’s celebrations, but there’s actually quite a few around the world that differ on culture, country, and religions.

So what is Nowruz, and where is this celebrated?

What is the Nowruz Persian New Year?

The Nowruz New Year, otherwise known as the Persian New Year, is the name used for the Iranian New Year’s Day.

Every year the Nowruz Persian New Year is celebrated by millions of Iranians and non-Iranians all around the world by giving their homes a polish and wishing for good luck in the New Year.

In 2010, the United Nations formally recognised the Nowruz Persian New Year as an international holiday.

When is Nowruz Persian New Year Celebrated?

The Nowruz Persian New Year marks the day of the March equinox (i.e. the beginning of Spring). The equinox usually happens between 19-21st March. This year (2019) it will occur on the evening of March 20th.

Before this exact day, however, there is much anticipation and preparation for the event. So, unlike a Western New Year which is over in one evening, the Persian New Year is dragged out over a few days.

Who celebrates Nowruz Persian New Year?

Nowruz Persian New Year has Iranian and Zoroastrian (one of the world’s oldest religions) origins.

Despite this, is celebrated all over the globe by various countries and communities. This includes a wide range of countries in Western and Central Asia, as well as the Balkans and the Caucasus.

Where Did Nowruz Persian New Year Come From?

The Nowruz Persian New Year is much older than the one celebrated in the Gregorian calendar, which is in its 2019th year of celebrations.

It is not known exactly how long the Nowruz has been celebrated for, but best estimates guess at over 3,000 years.

What is Zoroastrian, you ask?

Its routes lie in Zoroastrianism. This is an ancient Persian religion - predating both Christianity and Islam. Since this religion is thousands of years old, it cannot be confined to just the borders of Iran. Due to this, it has followers all around the world and there are many different communities all over the globe that celebrate the Persian New Year.

How to prepare for Nowruz

People start preparations weeks before the actual Persian New Year date. They do this by going into serious cleaning mode and go about various spring cleaning duties all around their home. This is done so that they can start their New Year fresh, and clean out everything from the previous year.

Probably a good habit we could all get into to be honest…

Walking around Iran during this period, you’ll see streets filled with hanging Persian rugs as families take them outside to beat them. What a sight!

The “haft-seen”

During these weeks, families will also set aside space of a collection of items symbolising hope for the New Year - otherwise known as a “half-seen”. Some families have their own traditions of things they add to the “half-seen”. However, items usually follow similar themes.

Sumac - A Persian spice made from red berries (sunrise of a new day)

Serkeh - Vinegar (patience and wisdom of ageing)

Samanu - Sweet pudding (wealth and fertility)

Seer - Garlic (health)

Sib - Apples (beauty)

Senjed - Dried fruit (love)

Sabzeh - Sprout or grass that continues to grow over the next few days (rebirth & renewal)

Nowruz Persian New Year: The Haft-Seen

How is Nowruz Persian New Year celebrated?

On the day of Nowruz, families will gather together to eat traditional foods and celebrating entering the New Year together. Many dishes often centre around the use of greens and various herbs, representing the theme of freshness and renewal.

The day of Nowruz actually kicks off a killer 13-days of celebrations! That’s a whole lot of food, family dinners, and reflections on the New Years ahead. Or reflections of what mistakes not to repeat this year…

And you thought you were getting too old for that one night at New Year.

The few last days of the Persian New Year are spent hosting Buzkashi, Central Asia's most dangerous sport, and wrestling activities. Children also receive money as gifts from family members and friends, in the form of fresh banknotes. Emphasis on the fresh, and representation of that fresh start.

The 13th and last day is when whatever has been placed on the “haft-seen” is left down a natural body of running water left to float away. This is the last representation of the out with the old and in with the new! On the morning of this day, families will gather at the oldest family member’s house. Children will begin the morning with banging pots and pans loudly. And won’t stop until someone comes out and fills the pots with sweets!

Bad time to not be a morning person.

Nowruz Persian New Year in Tajikistan: Wrestling
Nowruz Persian New Year Celebrations in Tajikistan: Buzkashi

How can I take part?

Koryo Tours spend the Nowruz Persian New Year in Tajikistan where we will be joining in celebrations. You can also have the chance to see a local game of Buzkashi - Central Asia's most dangerous sport.


Zoe Stephens

Zoe is the marketing manager and a tour leader at Koryo Tours.

Her love of meeting new people and exploring new cultures has led her to study several languages including German, Japanese, and Chinese. Having lived in several different countries across 4 continents, she often writes about languages and culture in her blogs and is very active on social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was 'stuck' in Tonga for 1.5 years after a weekend away. Ask her for some stories! 

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