National Days of Iran
Nowruz is what the Iranians mark as their New Year. It is one of the oldest national celebrations which has been passed on throughout history and is considered to be a day in which new benevolent things are to occur. Nowruz, translated as Iranian New Year, is the day of the spring equinox, when darkness equals daylight in 24 hours. Celebrated on March 21st, Nowruz is the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. Nowruz has always been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic groups and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. Its celebration started in Persia in one of the capitals of the ancient Achaemenid Empire in Persia (Fars). Not only in Iran, Nowruz is also celebrated in Khurdish culture and in Middle East and many other countries in Central Asia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan on 21 – 22 March. It is definitely considered to be one of the most important events of Persian culture. Nowruz is symbolically represented through Haft-sin. Haft-sin is formed by seven symbolic items whose spellings start with the letter Sin in the Persian alphabet. Haft-sin is traditionally displayed during Nowruz, marking the coming of spring on the Northern Hemisphere.
Among the hustle and bustle of cities and people in Iran when getting closer to Nowruz (Iranian New Year). Chaharshanbe Suri comes up to brighten people’s lives on the last Tuesday of the year. An ancient tradition from the Zoroaster era which is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz. As the sky gets dark, the flame of fire in various places of the country create pools of light to defeat the darkness. People enjoy their time on this everlasting night and forget every single hardship at this night. Some of the amusing things that people usually do in Chaharshanbe Suri are:
- Setting fire and jumping over it
- Sending dream balloons up to the sky
And a lot of other customs and traditions which are usually followed by the Iranians. Gathering with family and friends and creating a memorable night is something that is really needed during the ending days of year.
Sepandarmazgan is believed by ancient Iranians as a day when Love, the Earth and Friendship are to be celebrated and it has been given great cultural importance.
20th century BC is the date on which this tradition was formed in the Great Persian Empire. Marked on Bahman 29th in the current Iranian Calendar, this day coincides only 3 days After Valentine.
Persians with their unique, rich culture celebrate many great feasts rooted in natural occasions that have been combined with happiness & joy.
In the feast of Sepandarmazgan, Earth was worshiped and women venerated. On this day, Women and girls sat on the throne and men and boys had to attend to their needs and bring them presents and gifts. It has been a reminder of how admired and acclaimed women are in Persian culture.
Sizdah-bedar festival is the thirteenth day of Nowruz (Persian New Year) which is celebrated by almost every Iranian.
The tradition of spending the day outdoors on this very special day is kind of an Iranian trend. ”Sizdah-” means thirteen, and ”-bedar”, means to get rid of, i.e “getting rid of thirteen”. Although it is the end of the Nowruz holidays, people have been celebrating and enjoying this day since the ancient times.
It’s like a custom for Iranians to pack a picnic and go to parks or other countryside locations, a good chance of family get-together. It is believed that joy and laughter can clean the mind from all evil thoughts, and a picnic is usually a festive, happy event.
People usually play a lot of outdoor games and sports and create really fun moments for themselves.
There is another ritual on this day which is throwing away the “Sabzeh” from “Haft-sin”.
Another tradition on Sizda Bedar is to knot blades of grass done by single girls in the hope of finding their future partner. The knotting of the grass is representative of love and the bound of a man and a woman.
10th of Bahman (11th month) in Persian calendar is what is known as Sadeh celebration; an ancient festival in which fire was discovered by King Houshang many years before the arrival of Islam in Iran. Sad in Persian means a hundred and lots of historians believe that the reason why they have named this day Sadeh is because there are 50 days and nights until Nowruz comes which sum up together as a hundred. To honor the holiness of fire, as one of the four elements in nature, zoroastrian Persians lit a huge bonfire as the sun starts to set and people gather by the fire to say prayers and to appreciate their God for creation of fire.
Sadeh is considered as a national celebration and definitely not a religious ceremony. People in many cities of Iran such as Tehran, Karaj, Yazd, Kerman, Isfahan, Shiraz and many more still celebrate this special Festival in a joyful and happy atmosphere.
Shabe-Yalda (Yalda Night)
Shab-e Yalda also known as Shab-e Chelleh (Literally translated as night of forty) is an Iranian traditional occasion celebrated when the night is the longest in the year.” Yalda is celebrated when there is Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. On the calendar, this date corresponds to the night of December 20th in the Gregorian calendar, and to the night between the last day of the ninth Persian month (Azar) and the first day of the tenth month (Dey) on the Iranian official calendar. Yalda is one of the family holidays like Nowruz (Link) but shorter than it.
During this night of the year, friends and family members gather together to eat related foods at this night, drink tea and sherbet and read Persian poetry (especially Hafez) until after midnight. Fruits, nuts, pomegranates and watermelons are the popular foods to be eaten at this night. The redness in most of the fruits symbolically embody the crimson hues of dawn and glamour of life. Hafez magnificent poems from his Divan, which is an indispensable part of bookcases and shelves in most Persian households, are read and recited at Shabe Yalda and later in Nowruz. In a special ceremony, Yalda was added to Iran’s List of National Treasures in 2008.
It is believed among Iranians that those who start winter by having summer fruits will not become ill during the cold winter. Therefore, water melons are abundantly found in each house at this night.
Pomegranates, remind Persians of the immortal cycle of life and foresee the revival of generations, find their place on top of a fruit basket. The purple outer layer pomegranates represent birth and dawn, and their bright seeds the glow of life.
As days become gradually longer, ancient Persians believe that by the end of the first night of winter, coinciding with December 21st on calendar this year, dark powers are defeated by brightness and therefore they must celebrate all during the night; “The true morning will not come until the Yalda Night is gone,” as Saadi (13th-century poet) writes in his poetry (Boustan) about this night.
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