Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Equinox (March 20th) - Nowruz (Persia)

"O Majesty, on this feast of the Equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the Faith of the Ancient ones; may Surush the Angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestures and the exercise of justice and righteousness." 
---Omar Khayyam, Nowruznama 

Celebrated anywhere Persian people live, Nowruz is the Persian New Year and the most important holiday of Persian calendar. Nowruz is a 13-day celebration beginning with the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. This holiday is full of many traditions that honor the richness of Persian heritage and importance of family and friends. To observe specific aspects of spiritual values, a ceremonial table is set with items that each have a symbolic meaning for love, health, affluence, beauty, patience, and rebirth. Celebrants visit their friends, family, and neighbors, starting with the youngest family members visiting the oldest. Large parties are often thrown for members of the community to celebrate the new year together, and picnics are held on the 13th day of observance. Other traditions include wearing new clothes, cleaning the house, paying off debts, and giving gifts.

The night before the last Wednesday of the year is called "Chaharshanbe Suri" or "The Festival of Fire". On this evening, celebrants appreciate the victory of light (good) over darkness (evil) by lighting fires in the street and jumping over them. Celebrants eat and give special nuts to friends and family as thanks for the life, happiness, and health of the year before.

Although Nowruz is a celebration of the New Year, it is also a celebration of Persia's resilience after obstacles, overcoming of tyranny, and appreciation of family and friends. The Persian New Year is a time for its celebrants not only to reflect upon the fortune of the old year and anticipation of the new year, but also to be thankful for their loved ones and the blessings life has brought. 

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