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A Brief history of Noe-Rooz

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The New Year's
Ceremonies and Traditions

The Festival of "Noe-Rooz"

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Haji Firooz

Chahar Shanbeh Soori

The Spirit of Renewal

Haft Seen

New Year's Dishes

Seezdah Bedar

Sabzeh and flowers to welcome spring

"Sabzeh and flowers to welcome spring"
( Photo by Mansour-e Sane )

Haji Firooz

Haji Firooz, the herald of spring

"Haji Firooz"

The traditional herald of the Noe-Rooz season is called Haji Firooz. He symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year. Wearing black make up and a red costume, Haji Firooz sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and the news of the coming New Year.

Chahar Shanbeh Soori

One of the symbolic rituals of the Noe-Rooz celebrations occurs on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year (Chahar Shanbeh Soori, literally meaning "the eve of Red Wednesday" or "the eve of celebration"). On this magical night, families gather piles of brush or wood and bonfires are lit in public places. They then leap over the flames shouting:

"Sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to!"

"Give me your vibrant red hue, and take back my sickly yellow pallor!"

The essence of this tradition is giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil with the warmth and vibrancy of the fire.

According to tradition, the living are visited by the spirit of their ancestors on the last days of the year, and many children wrap themselves in shrouds, symbolically re-enacting the visits. They also run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons and knocking on doors to ask for treats. The ritual is called qashogh-zany (spoon beating) and symbolizes the beating out of the last unlucky Wednesday of the year. This could be seen as the Iranian version of the Western Halloween night.

There are also several other traditions on this night including:

The Spirit of Renewal

In parallel with the rebirth of nature, extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed in almost every household in Iran. This is also extended to every persons attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. On the New Year's day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors.

Haft Seen

The Zoroastrians of ancient Persia celebrated the creation of life by offering their god, Ahura Mazda, seven trays filled with symbolic objects representing truth, justice, good thoughts, good deeds, virtue, prosperity, generosity and immortality.

Today, the tradition is continued through the setting of the table or spread with an arrangement of several items of which seven of them start with the Persian letter Seen (in English S). The Persian translation for the number seven is "Haft", hence, "Haft Seen" means "Seven S's". It is customary for the family to gather round the Haft Seen spread a few hours before the New Year and recite poems from Hafez and verses from the Holy Koran. At the exact moment of the New Year, the oldest person in the family continues the traditions by hugging and wishing each member well and offering sweets, pastries, and coins. Banknotes are sometimes placed between the pages of the Holy Koran to bless them before they are given to the younger members of the family.

The contemporary Haft Seen spread includes seven of the following items:

  • Sabzeh - wheat or lentils grown in a tray or dish prior to Noe-Rooz to represent rebirth,
  • Samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence,
  • Senjed - the dried fruit of the lotus tree which represents love,
  • Seer - which means garlic in Persian, and represents medicine,
  • Seeb - which means apple in Persian, and represents beauty and health,
  • Somaq - sumac berries, which represent the colour of the sun rise,
  • Serkeh - which means vinegar in Persian, and represents age and patience,
  • Sonbol - the hyacinth flower with its strong fragrance heralding the coming of spring, and
  • Sekkeh - coins representing prosperity and wealth.

The Haft Seen Table

"The Haft Seen Table"

The other items in the spread include:

  • Shirini - Sugar cookies and pastries,
  • Candles - representing enlightenment and happiness,
  • Mirror - representing the reflections of creation on the first day of spring,
  • Painted eggs - representing fertility,
  • A bowl with goldfish - representing life and the end of the Zodiac sign of Pisces,
  • An orange in a bowl of water - representing the earth floating in space,
  • Rosewater - thought to have magical cleansing powers and
  • A copy of the Holy Koran and Divan-e Hafez

New Year's Dishes

Sabzi Polo Mahi

The New Year's day traditional meal is called Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with green herbs served with fish. The traditional seasonings for Sabzi Polo are parsley, coriander, chives, dill and fenugreek.

Reshteh Polo

Another traditional dish Reshteh Polo, is rice cooked with noodles which is said to symbolically help one succeed in life.

Seezdah Bedar

The thirteenth day celebrations, Seezdah Bedar, stem from the belief of the ancient Persians that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of which, the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos. Hence, Noe-Rooz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.

At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen spread (which has symbolically collected all the sickness and bad luck) is thrown away into running water to exorcise the demons (divs) and evil eyes from the house hold. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh, prior to discarding it, symbolizing their wish to be married before the next year's Seezdah Bedar. When tying the leaves, they whisper...

Picnic and games on Seedzdah Bedar

"Picnic and games on Seedzdah Bedar"
( Photo by N. Kasraian )

"Sal-e deegar, khune-yeh showhar, bacheh beh baghal!"

"By next year married, with my child in my arms!"


The festival of Noe-Rooz represents a major part of the Iranian peoples' rich culture and is one of the cornerstones of their civilization. It has remained intact for several thousand years bringing joy and hope to every Iranian, no matter where they reside.



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