Spring Equinox & Persian New Year
By Reza Ganjavi
I consider myself a human first and then all the other categories like gender, race, and ethnic origin. But having lived the first years of my life in Iran, on a day like today, I really realize how beautiful, rich, and important the Persian New Year celebrations are. Persian New Year starts with the beginning of spring (Equinox).
Since ancient times Persians have celebrated "Norooz" (meaning new day) in a most beautiful way which traditionally was all about NATURE, seasons, sun, cosmos -- all that which they were related to day in and out, relied on, and felt a spiritual connection to.
Ancient Persians were farmers and lived in harmony with nature. They treated nature as a conscious intelligent entity and had a relationship with it. (Going further back, I've read that the Arians who moved to the Caspian Sea region and below were farmers and vegetarians -- they would not raise cattle for meat.)
There were other ancient traditions that also considered the sun, Earth, nature as conscious, divine, loving, intelligent, and not merely something for humans to exploit. Modern science, in the last few centuries especially, has taken a materialistic approach which is false (as demonstrated by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake www.sheldrake.org in his excellent book "Science Set Free").
The Nowruz celebration goes back thousands of years to époques of Zoroastrianism and even older, Mitraism. In Mitraism the sun was worshiped as a conscious, divine entity. Other ancient festivals which are still practiced by Persians like Yaldaa (longest night), Mehregaan (autumnal equinox), Tiregaan (longest day) are also sun based.
Nowruz celebrations start with jumping over fire the last Wednesday night of the year, a custom that this year I really miss being among cold snow covered mountains. I miss the fire element. The stove is electric. And there's no fireplace here.
As people jump over bundles of fire in a row they say my yellow to you and your red to me (take my coldness, ills and weaknesses and give me, oh fire, your flame, redness, heat, and health as I start a new year). That ceremony is called Chahar-shanbeh-soori and includes other things like serving mixed nuts and dried fruits (very yummy).
The Equinox and turn of New Year is celebrated around a setting of Haftsin (7 natural things that start with “S”). Traditionally this was a way of welcoming Spring, praising it, and hoping for a good year of harvest.
A deep cleaning of the house is part of the tradition as well as buying new clothes... a renewal in every way... and visiting relatives and friends. And elders give new bills (money) to others to symbolize prosperity.
Interestingly, this is such a meaningful and rich tradition that Persians have maintained for thousands of years despite many forces in history who tried to demolish it because such beauty and rich culture is against darkness; joy and happiness is a threat to worshipers of sorrow and those who are afraid of the light.
Part of growth as a human is to drop those aspects of one's culture and tradition which make no sense and all my adult life I've seen those drop one after another -- but there are also good parts of a culture to keep and the New Year celebration is one of them. I'm not even doing it really -- I don't have a Haftsin -- but share the joy with many friends and relatives who do. The joy is in the air. In 15 minutes Spring is here. There's a Persian saying that a good year is indicated by its spring. I hope it's a good spring for you and your loved ones and for all good people.
And the 13th day of Spring is also celebrated in a beautiful way. An article I wrote about that a while ago is on the writings section of my site www.rezamusic.com.
The above was a totally spontaneous composition.