Happy Haftsin to You
I've always felt that of the three New Years celebrations I have during
the year, the timing of Persian New Year is the best. Why try to
start fresh in the middle of winter, like the Dick Clark New Year, or
as autumn leaves are falling, like Rosh Hashana? Persians (a
group tracing its heritage to Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey,
Pakistan, India, and Central Asia) ring in the new year on the first
day of spring, as blossoms are opening, fields are bright green, and
the world smells fresh and new.
Although much of the Persian New Year observance comes from ancient
Zoroastrian tradition, it is now a secular holiday, celebrated by
all. The weeks surrounding Norooz, the Persian New Year, are
filled with activity. On the last Wednesday of the year, people
light small fires outside and leap over the flames, bringing light and
warmth into the coming year. Throughout the festivities, friends
and relatives visit each other at home, welcoming one another with
sweets and gifts. Then, on the thirteenth day of the new year,
the last day of the celebration, everyone heads out to the parks, which
are filled with picnickers and the mouthwatering smell of kabob on the
And in every Persian home, you'll find the cornerstone of the New Year
celebration: the Haft Sinn, a ceremonial table set with seven items,
each with a symbolic significance, and with its Persian name starting
with the letter sinn:
- Sabzeh: wheat, lentil, or mung bean sprouts, symbolizing growth.
- Seeb: apple, symbolizing beauty and health.
- Seer: garlic, symbolizing health.
- Serkeh: vinegar, symbolizing age and patience.
- Senjed: dried lotus fruit, symbolizing love.
- Somaq: ground sumac berries, symbolizing the sunrise --
the time of day when, according to Zoroastrian tradition, Good conquers
- Samanu: a sweet creamy pudding, made from common wheat sprouts, symbolizing nourishment and rebirth.
A few other items whose names start with sinn have been added to the
spread over the years, although not part of the original seven:
- sekkeh: coins, symbolizing prosperity.
- sombol: hyacinth, with its sweet scent and pastel colors, brings a bit of springtime inside the home.
In addition to these, several other items are also part of of the Haft Sinn:
- painted eggs, to represent fertility.
- goldfish, to represent the Zoroastrian angel of water and fertility.
- a mirror, to bring light to the home.
- a Qoran, a Torah, or a book of the poems of the great Persian poet Hafez.
The traditional meal for Norooz (literally "new day" in Persian)
consists of smoked fish and herbed rice, followed of course by tea and
many sweets. Unlike our western New Year observance, Norooz does
not start at midnight, staggered across time zones. It starts at
the moment winter ends and spring begins, at the very same second
throughout the world. In Los Angeles, Norooz 2007 falls on
Tuesday, March 20 at 4:07 pm. To learn more about Norooz, the
history of Norooz, check out these articles at Pars Times: