With the end of winter, it is time for new beginnings: Across the Middle East and South Asia, celebrations are about to begin as Nowruz, the ‘Persian New Year’, marks the beginning of spring and celebrates a fresh start to the year.
With the world in the midst of tumultuous and uncertain times, celebrations of renewal and togetherness are more important than ever. Luckily, a great example of a secular holiday that binds together a variety of cultures and religions is upon us: Happy Nowruz everybody!
The tradition of Nowruz dates back 3000 years and was originally a Zoroastrian tradition, one of the world’s oldest still-practiced religions. It was celebrated at the height of the Roman empire, during the Chinese war of three kingdoms and constituted a royal holiday for the Abbasid-dynasty and has survived to this day.
As the world changed and new empires, cultures, religions, and traditions arose, Nowruz has managed to survive as a beloved tradition in many different cultures.
The build-up to the joyous day started earlier this week with the traditional ‘festival of fire,’ when bonfires and fireworks mark the ending of the previous year, and an ancient version of trick-or-treat where children leave a cap or small basket at their neighbors doors to collect sweets, fruit, or pastries.
At the close of the year everything bad is banished into the past and the 13 days of Nowruz are ready to begin.
The beginning of spring is symbolized by all things clean and new, starting with ‘shaking the house’ a tradition of a thorough spring-clean and restock of the shelves. People decorate their sparkling clean houses, prepare a festive table, and dress in their finest, preferably new, clothes.
Nowruz celebrates togetherness and our shared connection, celebrants call everyone they know to wish them a happy Nowruz, to reaffirm connections and acknowledge each other’s existence.
For the 13 days of Nowruz, people visit their families and expect to be visited in turn. This year, this tradition will likely be performed digitally where possible, but the idea to see your family and connect with them, not once but repeatedly, is a message anyone can embrace in our current times.
While not very well known in the West, this year is a great time to start celebrating Nowruz. It is time to make an effort to connect with family and friends via phone or video-call, give the house a good clean, and celebrate leaving one year behind us, and standing together in being hopeful for the next.