Norouz; Festivity of Creation (1)
Spring manifests that God cares for His servitudes and has not forgotten them. This skilled painter shapes figures with his paint brush, in a variety of colors, while covering the cold and lifeless body of trees with white and pink blossoms.
Can you hear the sounds? A fresh movement is on the making. Happiness has refreshed the soil; which is fertile with a new crop. Every particle of the universe is moving. Whatever you look at, displays joy. Spring is on the way, awaiting us to flourish and develop. Someone is ringing the bell. Can you hear the sound? A familiar passenger is at our doorstep. The chilly weather has gone away, and has been replaced by warmth. Fresh plants have grown out of soil, marking a new life. Just look at the sprouts. The white and pink blossoms herald chastity and life. Listen. Can you hear the whispers of rocks? How come you have sat idle? Why are you silent? The world is speaking to you. Open up to the universe. Let the breeze refresh your soul and spirit. Flourish knowing that you have been created to pursue a purpose in life.
Norouz, or the first day of the Iranian month of Farvardin marks the age-old New Year festivity. Norouz belongs to ancient Iran. However, currently, the people of Iran, Azerbaijan Republic, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iraq, and Georgia mark and celebrate this Eid. Norouz Festivity begins with the vernal equinox. In accordance to Gregorian Christian Calendar, Norouz corresponds to 20th or 21st of March.
The origin of Norouz remains unknown. In some of the ancient texts, including Ferdowsi’s collection of poems, Shah Nameh, and Tarikh-e Tabari, the Iranian legendary king, Jamshid, has been named as the founder of Norouz.
Researchers, such as Mehrdad, believe that Norouz is the public festivity of people of Mesopotamia and consider the migration of tribes as one of the main reasons behind the promotion of Norouz in different parts of Asia. This researcher opines that historical monuments such as Persepolis were constructed to convene the Norouz Festivity and ceremonies of worship, naming this historical monument as the main symbol of Norouz in the history of Iranians.
In accordance to a number of historical accounts, Norouz dates back to 538 BC; concurrent with the conquest of Babylon by the Iranian king, Cyrus. Based on several accounts, Cyrus the Second declared Norouz as a national festivity on that year. On this day, he implemented a number of plans; promoting soldiers, cleaning public places and personal homes, and acquitting convicts.
During the reign of the other Achaemenid Dynasty king, Darius the First, the Norouz Festivity was convened in Takht-e Jamshid; the reminders of which can still be traced on the inscriptions and engravings of this historical monument. The grandeur of this festivity and presence of other nations’ representatives in this festivity also portray the importance of Norouz in ancient times. Furthermore, innumerable evidences manifest that Darius the First minted a gold coin on the occasion of Norouz Festivity in the year 416 BC.
Celebration of Norouz was upheld by the Parthian and Sassanid dynasties, too, and during those phases in time, Norouz was marked as one of the most important annual festivities of Iranians. Throughout the Sassanid era, Norouz was divided into minor and major Norouz festivities. Within the minor Norouz festivity, which covered five days, a group of people met with the king, who listened to their remarks. However, in the major Norouz festivity which began on the 6th day of Iranian month of Farvardin, only the king’s associates met him, holding a number of private festivities.
It is interesting to know that the Sassanid King, Ardeshir, defeated the Romans in the year 230 AD, ordering the recognition of Norouz in Rome. This Eid was celebrated in Rome for a number of years.
Upon the advent of Islam, although Norouz Ceremonies went through a number of changes, this New Year festivity continued to be marked. Upon the empowerment of Samanid and Bouyad Dynasties, Norouz Festivity was held every year in the initial days of spring in a new form and shape. The divine religion of Islam and especially the Shia School of Thought have put emphasis on commemoration of Norouz. Hence, this Iranian ceremony has been gloriously marked in different historical phases.
In the contemporary era, Norouz has also been highlighted as Iran’s cultural and spiritual heritage and has been marked in Iran and the majority of regional countries. Even, UNESCO member states have recognized Norouz as a global cultural heritage.
The historical Norouz Festivity ushers in peace, hope, and prosperity for millions of people, across the globe. These traditions and ceremonies partly manifest the culture, tradition, and customs of people, who are influenced by the Iranian culture. All the individuals who reside in Iran’s cultural domain, by upholding Norouz festivity, manifest their ancient and historical unity. Given that Norouz is one of the sources of honor of Iranians, we have found it appropriate to brief you on Norouz traditions in Iran.
Every year, on the first day of spring, Iranians sit next to their Haftsin Tablecloth, marking the beginning of the New Year. The Haftsin Table Cloth consists of seven items which start with the letter S in Farsi. These items include greenery (Sabzeh), which is the epitome of rebirth of life; (Samanou) an especial pudding made of fresh wheat sprouts; (Senjed) oleaster, which is the symbol of birth; Shumack and garlic which are the symbols of health and vivaciousness in life; and vinegar which is the symbol of patience, given that it takes years to prepare.
Additionally, Iranians place other items on their Haftsin Tablecloth, such as eggs, which are the symbols of creation, mirror; symbolizing transparency and uniformity; water as the symbol of blessings and light; goldfish as the symbol of life and dynamism; coins as the symbol of assets; and candles as the symbol of light and warmth.
The branches of cypress tree, hyacinth, and pussy willow flower are other items of Haftsin Tablecloth; whose scent heralds the arrival of spring. Sweets and cakes are also placed on the tablecloth. Meanwhile, Holy Quran maintains an especial status in Haftsin Tablecloth. On the arrival of the New Year, the family members recite the New Year prayer in a spiritual atmosphere, while later reciting ayahs of Holy Quran. Upon the arrival of New Year, the elder member of the family gives money or souvenirs to other family members, while everyone eats cookies, congratulating the arrival of New Year to each other.
The beautiful nature throughout spring manifests the beauty of creation, motivating people to work hard, even prior to its arrival. Eid-e Norouz can bring about permanent happiness and gladden individuals, providing a strong inner self to many, in addition to granting them an appropriate appearance. Those, who avoid misdeeds in these prominent days, benefit from this ancient Eid more than anyone else, experiencing true happiness.
Happiness grants meaning to life and enables human spirit to pave the way toward perfection and elevation; thereby energizing oneself. The majority of divine religions who have guided mankind to prosperity, have paid attention to this vital element. The divine religion of Islam, which is in line with mankind’s innate nature, has invited Muslims to benefit from positive and constructive joys, as a factor which maintains spiritual health and motivates mankind to cover the path to elevation. In order to establish happiness in people, Islam has called on people to smile toward others, to wear neat clothes, to travel, to attend the nature, and to be kind to others.
Islamic teachings have not just focused on personal happiness, and have also put emphasis on gladdening others, as an ethical virtue, possibly because in the light of a cheerful community; personal happiness is also guaranteed.
Spring, coupled with all of its freshness and beauty has arrived. In the spring time, happiness is widespread and emotional bonds are reinforced among the members of the community to begin a blessed and happy year. Arrival of the spring grants peace of mind and motivates mankind to accompany the festivity of nature. Mankind ponders over the unique manifestations of universe and enjoys the rebirth of nature. This is because every wise person seeks to understand facts. God in the 190th ayah of Surat Al-I’Imran notes: “Indeed in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for those who possess intellects.”