Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Iranian Nowruz- Haft Seen Table

Haft Seen table in Mashhad

Nowruz, literally New Day, is the New Year celebrated in Iran (and some others countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, the Kurdistan region, Turkmenistan, and a few others to a lesser degree). It happens on the spring equinox known as sāl tahvil which occurs this year on Thursday March 20 at 12:57:07 pm EST in the U.S. 

My Haft Seen Table

My cousin's Haft Seen

My aunt's Haft Seen

Nowruz is the biggest holiday in Iran and the start of a 2-week national holiday. In preparation for Nowruz, Iranians do khāne tekuni, literally shaking the house, or spring cleaning. They also start growing sprouts for the Sofreh Haft Seen, Table of Seven S's, the traditional Nowruz table setting that has 7 plant-based items all beginning with the Persian letter seen س, each symbolizing something different:





سکه Though this isn't a plant-based item, it's often included on the tables.

Other items on the Haft Seen table are usually āynemirrorsham, candles symbolizing enlightenment, the Koran, other Holy Book, or a book of poems by Hafiz, painted tokhme morgh, eggs (symbolizing fertility and usually 1 for every child in the house), mahigoldfish (symbolizing life), sonbol, hyacinth (can also count as another "s"), sweets like baklava and toot (marzipan shaped as mulberries and rolled in sugar with a pistachio sliver as the stem).


Haft Seen competitions are pretty common throughout Iran, and these photos were sent to me from one of my cousins from one of the competitions she went to. 

On Nowruz, it's tradition to eat sabzi polo māhi, herb rice with fishDuring the two-week holiday, Iranians go on deed o bāz deed, visiting friends and relatives. You visit your older relatives first as a sign of respect, and they return the visit later. Kids usually love this time because they get a lot of Eidee, monetary gifts. It's common to keep the money in the Koran (or other Holy Book or a book of poems if they don't practice any religion) and take it out of there to give it to kids.

To wish someone a Happy New Year, you can say: 
نوروز مبارک Nowruz mobārak (Happy New Year)
نوروز پیروز Nowruz Piruz (Wishing you a prosperous year)
سال نو مبارک Sāle no mobārak! (Happy New Year)
عید شما مبارک Eide shomā mobārak (Happy New Year and probably the most common one)
You can also add the phrase صد سال به این سالها sad sāl be in sālhā (wishing you 100 more new years) to any of these phrases.

The 13th and last day of Nowruz is known as sizdeh bedar, literally, 13 outside. You are supposed to spend this day outside (usually Iranians have picnics in the park) as it's bad luck to stay indoors. The lentil and wheat sprouts were supposed to have absorbed any negativity in the house during the past two weeks, so you take them with you to the park. Unmarried girls tie a knot with the sprouts symbolizing a marital bond in hopes of being married by the next year. The sprouts are then thrown away. 

This year will be 1393 in Iran. When I was little, my brain didn't comprehend that there were different calendars, so in my warped mind, the reason Iran wasn't quite as developed as the U.S. was because they were still in the 1360s (but oddly enough I never thought I was time-traveling). I used to think, wow, it's going to take hundreds of years before they have the same things we have in the U.S. I won't live to see it! Alas, I have lived to see it- beyond what I ever imagined. And one simple way is that it used to be near impossible calling Iran around Nowruz because the lines were always so busy. And then when the phone would connect, you'd have to yell into the receiver. Of course these days, thanks to technology and apps like Viber and Tango, there is no such problem- though I do apologize in advance if we manage to crash these apps on Thursday. Bayid nistit's not unlikely

I absolutely love Nowruz. Even though I grew up in the U.S., I always felt that this was my real New Year. Waiting for that exact second of sāl tahvil was always more interesting and exciting for me than watching the ball drop in Times Square. And when I didn't keep my New Year's resolution from January, it didn't matter because my real New Year was coming up, and I had a second shot. Perhaps it was because growing up, we would always prepare a lot more for this, or maybe it's this whole idea of rebirth at spring that just makes a lot more sense to me. It also has a certain "smell", as ridiculous as that may sound. It's just a shame that I've never experienced Nowruz in Iran. I've always experienced sāl tahvil sitting in 5th period math or at work. Hopefully, 1394 will be my year.  

Eidetun mobārak! Nowruzetun piruz! Love, light, health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. 



  1. Norooz Mobarak az Norway Pontia aziz!

    1. Merci Syd joone aziz! Nowruz Mobarak to you and all other honorary Iranians ;-)

  2. I wonder what happens to all those goldfishes after Nowruz. Do you know – or suspect – what it is?

    1. I know some people throw them in the water in parks or "hoz", small pools of water. One of my friends has had her Nowruz goldfish for over a year!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...