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Posted on: March 27, 2017

Happy Nowruz!

As Orley Shabahang owes the artistry of its rugs to the traditional handicrafts of the Persian culture, we wanted to share some other Persian traditions that have endured generations. Ring in the Persian New Year by reading about the customs of this thirteen-day celebration that begins on the first day of spring!

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Tracing its roots back thousands of years to ancient Persia, Nowruz is still a time of year spent celebrating and feasting with family and friends. Despite periods of war and conquest, this special holiday has always been observed by the Iranian people regardless of race and religion. As such, it is revered as the most important holiday my most Iranians.

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Fresco depicting Nowruz celebration in Chehel Sotoun Palace, Isfahan c. 17th century

The first step in preparation for this thirteen-day observance is khaneh takani, better know in the west as spring-cleaning. It is customary to clean and organize every space in the house, and this means EVERY space, so that the new year can begin free of physical and metaphorical clutter. After the cleaning is finished, the house is adorned with different flowers, typically hyacinths and tulips, alluding to the rebirth of nature that occurs between winter and spring.

Another precursor to the first day of Nowruz called Charshanbe Suri and takes place on the last Wednesday of the year. This custom involves jumping over bonfires while reciting a short poem. This gesture is a symbol for starting the new year with health and positive energy – any negativity from the previous year is burned in the fire and replaced with the warmth and energy of the flame.

The most quintessential part of Nowruz is the Sofre Haft Seen, which roughly translates to the table of seven S’s. Every house creates a table setting with these seven items, each representing an important aspect of life that one should take into the new year. They include grass (sabze) to symbolize rebirth, a dessert called samanu to symbolize affluence, dried Persian olives (senjed) to symbolize love, garlic (seer) to symbolize health, an apple (seeb) to symbolize beauty, sumac to symbolize the turning of a leaf as its color is reminiscent of sunrise, and vinegar (serkeh) to symbolize patience. There are often other items placed on the table such as a mirror, goldfish, flowers, candles, painted eggs, coins, and a hyacinth flower. The New Year begins with the family exchanging presents around their Sofre Haft Seen.

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After thirteen days of visiting the homes of friends and family, eating and laughing together, Nowruz ends with Sizdebedar. This day is meant to be spent outdoors, surrounded by nature if possible. It typically involves a picnic, followed by the ceremonial disposal of the sabze, or grass, in a river or stream. If you are a single member of the family, it is a superstition that tying a knot in the sabze before throwing it in the river gives you good luck in finding a partner.

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The Orley Shabahang family would like to wish you and all of your loved ones a happy and healthy new year! Nowruz Mobarak!