Jamshed Navroz is celebrated by the Zoroastrian or Parsi community throughout the world with immense gusto and gaiety. The festival marks the Parsi New Year which commences on the first day of the first month of the Fasli calendar followed by the Parsis. The occasion falls on the 21st of March which also marks the beginning of spring with Vernal Equinox. The festival has been named Jamshed Navroz in honor of King Jamshed who introduced the solar calculation into the Parsi calendar. This special occasion symbolizes new life, hopes, rebirth and colors in the New Year. Furthermore, there are certain traditions and rituals that are followed while observing this festival. Read on further to know the different customs of Nowruz festival.
Rituals Of Nowruz Festival
The people begin with cleaning their homes as a general custom of Nowruz, known as ‘spring clean’. This is observed days before the festival. The Parsis clean every part of their house, dust furniture and wash carpets. This is practiced to welcome the new spring season with freshness. The Parsis also believe that the soul of the departed family members would visit the homes of their loved ones on Nowruz Eve.
The number seven has been regarded magical and significant for the Zoroastrians. The number seven symbolizes the seven elements of life, namely, fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and humans. The traditional table setting of Jamshed Navroz includes seven specific items beginning with the letter ‘S’, known as Haft Sin, that signify life, health, wealth, abundance, love, patience and purity. These items are also known to have astrological correlations to planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and Sun and Moon.
The Haft Sin items are sabzeh (wheat or lentil sprouts representing rebirth), samanu (creamy pudding made from wheat germ regarded as holy and symbolizes affluence), seeb (apple symbolizing health and beauty), senjid (dried fruit of lotus tree stands for love), sir (garlic regarded as medicinal and represents health), somagh (sumac berries signifying the color of the sun and the victory of good over evil) and serkeh (vinegar representing old age and patience). Apart from these foods, there are other items that are placed on the traditional table.
These items include sonbol (hyacinth plant), sekkeh (coins representing wealth), aajeel (dried nuts, berries and raisins), lit candles (enlightenment and happiness), a mirror (cleanness and honesty), decorated eggs (fertility), traditional Iranian pastries like baghlava, toot and naan-nokhodchi, a bowl of water with goldfish (very essential for the Nowruz table), rosewater (magical cleansing powers), national colors (for a patriotic touch) and a holy book (the Avesta, Qur’an, Bible, Torah or Kitáb-i-Aqdas) and/or a poetry book (either the Shahnama or the Divan of Hafez).
At the strike of the clock indicating New Year, the Parsis wear their clean and new dresses and gather around the Nowruz table and Haft Sin. Prayers are offered for health, happiness and prosperity. Next, the family members hug and kiss each other as part of the New Year greetings. The delicacies prepared for the occasion are served and consumed. The oldest member of the family then takes the lead and presents the Eidi (New Year’s gift) to the younger members present.