Nowruz literally means ‘new day’ and while the celebration is for Persian new year, much of the traditional ceremony is about renewal and hope for the future. The roots of Nowruz stretch deep into history, with the spring equinox (usually 21th of March) having been celebrated since before Achaemenid times.
Nowruz festivities stretch for about three weeks. Apart from frenzied shopping, the outward sign of Nowruz is street-side stalls selling the ‘Haft Seen’, or sometimes more symbolic items with Farsi names starting with letter ‘s’. Like a Christmas tree, they are supposed to be set up at home, though you’ll see them everywhere from TV news studios to taxi dashboards.
When Nowruz finally arrives, families gather around the Haft Sin table to recite a prayer seeking happiness, good health and prosperity, before eating ‘Sabzi Polo’ (rice and vegetables) and mahi (fish). Mothers are also expected to eat symbolic hard-boiled eggs, one for every child. At the moment the sun passes the celestial equator (announced on every radio station), people kiss and hug and children are given ‘Eidi’ (presents). For the following two weeks Iranians visit relatives and friends in their home towns.