Wednesday 31 Aug 2016

Norouz: The Iranian New Year Celebration

norouz persian

 By: Mehti Zohouri

Norouz (new day) is the name of the Iranian new year which is celebrated on the f irst day of spring or more specifically during the spring equinox (or vernal equinox for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere).

Persian_Tribune_V1_Issue3__Page_06_Image_0001This is when the sun is directly over the equator causing there to be equal day time and night time, and it always takes place between March 19th and March 21st. Many cultures celebrate Norouz (Afghans, Parsis in India, Albanians, Kazakhs, Tajiks andmany more from Europe to China), or celebrate the spring equinox and it has signaled the start of the planting season for farmers for thousands of years.

Norouz is a Zoroastrian festival and Zoroastrianism was the religion of ancient Iranians. Today most Iranians are no longer Zoroastrians but Norouz is the most important festival in Iran as is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all Iranians. While the earliest detailed written records of Norouz date to the second century AD there is historical evidence that the Achaemenid Empire (550 BC to 330 BC) had a magnificent festival during Norouz during which the Emperor would receive gift bearing kings (the Persian Emperor being King of Kings or Shahanshah) and dignitaries from across his empire.During the reign of the succeeding Iranian (or Persian) empire, the Par thian Empire (247 BC to 224 AD), Norouz was celebrated during the autumn equinox which falls on September. Another Zoroastrian festival, Mehragan, was celebrated during the spring equinox. But the following Iranian empire, the Sassanid Empire (224 AD to 651 AD), held the Norouz festivities during spring equinox once more. It is from the reign of the Sassanid Empire that historians have the first detailed records of Nowruz. By 651 AD the Arab Muslim Caliphate had conquered the Sassanid Empire, with the empire’s capital falling on Norouz, and over many generations most Iranians conver ted from Zoroastrianism (any other religions) to Islam.

Norouz like other ancient Iranian festivals was threatened by the conversion of most Iranians to Islam and at times Muslim Caliphs attempted to prohibit the celebration of Norouz. However unlike other ancient Iranian festivals, Norouz survived as an important aspect of the Iranian identity. By the time of the Safavid Empire (1501 AD to 1736 AD), the first major Iranian empire since the Arab Muslim conquest, Norouz was well established festival among Iranians. In 1979 the last Iranian monarch, from the Pahlavi dynasty, was overthrown and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established. Some clerical authorities in the Islamic Republic attempted to dampen and remove the celebratory atmosphere of Norouz but were not successful. Today in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Norouz is still the most celebrated festival for Iranians.

Persian_Tribune_V1_Issue3__Page_08_Image_0002The longevity and popularity of Norouz among Iranians, bothin Iran and in the Iranian diaspora, is due to its signifi cance ascultural event that maintains Iranian identity. It is what ancient Iranians used to protect and separate their cultural identity from that of their occupiers during times of invasion. For many in the diaspora it is a way of remembering a different Iran than that which exists today.For young Iranians it is a celebration that connects them to their ancient past. Recent research by Professor Maryam Daha published in the Journal of Adolescent Research reveals that while most Iranians adapt well into the society of their new country they maintain some of their Iranian heritage by celebrating various Iranian festivals. By far the most popular Iranian festivals among young Iranians (in the Iranian diaspora) is Norouz, which is celebrated by 98% of young Iranian-Americans. The next most popular Iranian festival is celebrated by only 70% of young Iranian-Americans. Hence it can be confi dently argued that for Iranians Norouz is the most joyous and popular means of celebrating their cultural heritage as they wish each other a Happy Norouz or in Farsi: “Norouz Shaad Baad”.

Mehti Zohouri is a teacher who was born in Iran and raised in Canada.
He has a Master degree in History, a B.A. in Psychology and a Bachelor
of Education from Lakehead University. When he is not teaching he
goes on canoe trips.

Related posts:

  1. Herodotus and Iran
  2. Cyrus the Great’s Legacy

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