Nowruz is celebrated officially
in countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. (Note, in Turkmenistan it is called "Nevruz", blended with Turkmen tradtions and legends):
Norouz (also spelled Norooz, Noruz, Nauroz, Nav-roze, Navroz, Naw-Rķz or Nowrouz and in Persian نوروز) is the traditional Iranian festival of the New Year in the Persian calendar which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. The name comes from Persian no=new + rooz=day; meaning "new day".
Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Today the festival of Norouz is celebrated in Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikestan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and other parts of Central Asia.
When is Norouz?
Although the Persian Calendar is very precise about the very moment of turn of the new year, Norouz itself is by definition the very first calendar day of the year, regardless of when the natural turn of the year happens. For instance, in some years, the actual natural moment of turn of the year could happen before the midnight of the first calendar day, but the calendar still starts at 00:00 hours for 24 hours, and those 24 hours constitue the Norouz. Various Iranian peoples who celebrate the Norouz, typically observe the exact moment of the turn of the year.
Preparing for Norouz starts in Esfand, the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar. Iranians, Afghans and other groups start preparing for the Norouz by doing a major spring-cleaning of their houses, buying new clothes to wear for the new year and buying lots of flowers for the Norouz (in particular the hyacinth and the tulip are popular and conspicuous).
Chahar Shanbe Soori
The last Tuesday of the year is celebrated by the Iranian people with a special series of customs including lighting fires, going to family parties, "Faal Goosh", "Ghaashogh Zani" etc. Most of the citizens go to the streets and alleys, make fires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardie man az tou Sorkhie tou az man.
Serving different kinds of pastry and nuts known as Ajile Moshkel Gosha is another Chahar Shanbe Soori tradition.
Haft Meveh (Seven Fruits)
In Afghanistan Afghans prepare for Norouz by preparing seven dried fruits that is prapared in water and is the drink for the day of Norouz.
The Haft Seen (In Persian: هفت سین)
A major tradition of Norouz is setting the "Haft Seen" (the seven 'S', seven items starting with letter S or "seen" (س) in Persian alphabet), which is seven specific items on a table symbolically corresponding to the seven creations and the seven holy immortals protecting them. Today they are changed and modified but some have kept their symbolism. Every family tries to set up as beautiful a Haft Seen table as they can, as it is not only of special spiritual meaning to them, but also is noticed by visitors to their house during Norouzi visitations and is a reflection of their good taste.
The Haft Seen
are seven of these, though there isn't consensus as to which seven:
- wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish (symbolising rebirth)
- a sweet pudding made from wheat germ (symbolising affluence)
- the dried fruit of the jujube tree (love)
- garlic (medicine)
- apples, (beauty and health)
- sumac berries (the colour of the sunrise)
- vinegar (age and patience)
- the fragrant hyacinth flower (the coming of spring)
- coins (prosperity and wealth)
Other items on the table may include:
-lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
-painted eggs, perhaps one for each member of the family (fertility)
-a bowl with two goldfish (life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving)
-a bowl of water with an orange in it (the earth floating in space)
-rose water for its magical cleansing powers
-the national colours, for a patriotic touch
-a book of poetry by Hafez or a holy book (the Qur'an for Muslims, the Torah or Hebrew Scriptures for Jews)
During the Norouz holidays people are expected to pay house visits to one another (mostly limited to families, friends and neighbours) in the form of short house visits and the other side will also pay you a visit during the holidays before the 13th day of the spring. Typically, on the first day of Norouz, family members gather around the table, with the Haft Seen on the table or set next to it, and await the exact moment of the arrival of the spring. At that time gifts are exchanged. Later in the day, on the very first day, the first house visits are paid to the most senior family members. Typically, the youngers visit the elders first, and the elders return their visit later. The visits naturally have to be relatively short, otherwise one will not be able to visit everybody on their list. Every family announces in advance to their relatives and friends which days of the holidays are their reception days. A typical visit is around 30 minutes, where you often run into other visiting relatives and friends who happen to be paying a visit to the same house at that time. Because of the house visits, you make sure you have a sufficient supply of pastry, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and special nuts on hand, as you typically serve your visitors with these items plus tea or syrup.
The thirteenth day of the New Year festival is called Sizdah Bedar (meaning "thirteen outdoors"). People go out in the nature in groups and spend all day outdoors in the nature in form of family picnics. It is a day of festivity in the nature, where children play and music and dancing is abundant. On this day, people throw their sabzeh away in the nature as a symbolic act of making the nature greener, and to dispose of the bad luck that the sprouts are said to have been collecting from the household.
History of Norouz
The name of Norouz does not occur until the second century AD in any Persian records. We have reasons to believe that the celebration is much older than that date and was surely celebrated by the people and royalty during the Achaemenid times (555-330 BC). It has often been suggested that the famous Persepolis Complex, or at least the palace of Apadana and Hundred Columns Hall, were built for the specific purpose of celebrating Norouz. However, no mention of the name of Norouz exists in any Achaemenid inscription.
Our oldest records of Norouz go back to the Arsacid/Parthian times (247 BC-224 AD). There are specific references to the celebration of Norouz during the reign of Arsacid Emperor Vologases I (51-78 AD). Unfortunately, the lack of any substantial records about the reign of the Arsacids leaves us with little to explore about the details of Norouz during their times.
After the accession of Ardashir I Pabakan, the founder of the Sasanian Dynasty (224 AD), consistent data for the celebration of Norouz were recorded. Throughout the Sasanian era (224-650 AD), Norouz was celebrated as the most prominent ritual during the year. Most royal traditions of Norouz such as yearly common audiences, cash gifts, and pardon of prisoners, were established during the Sasanian era and they persisted unchanged until the modern times.
Norouz, along with Sadeh that is celebrated in mid-winter, were the two pre-Islamic celebrations that survived in the Islamic society after 650 AD. Other celebrations such Gahanbar and Mehragan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians who carried them as far as India. Norouz, however, was most honoured even by the early founders of Islam. There are records of the Four Great Caliphs presiding over Norouz celebrations, and during the Abbasid era, it was adopted as the main royal holiday.
Following the demise of the Caliphate and re-emergence of Iranian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Norouz was elevated into an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sasanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. Even the Turkish and Mongol invaders of Iran did not attempt to abolish Norouz in favour of any other celebration. Thus, Norouz remained as the main celebration in the Iranian lands by both the officials and the people.
Taken from: wikipedia via http://www.answers.com/nowruz