Photo credited to @AliMohagheghi
We are an old, very, very old country, therefore we are also naturally a melting pot of different customs; the different religions and landscapes of this land directly affect the traditions observed by the locals. In some areas industrialization and modern lifestyles have helped suppress certain traditions, but if one looks hard enough they can still find their remnants lingering on in some villages of Iran. Only when you break them down region-by-region, can one truly appreciate the manner in which Norooz has unified people of different faiths, over a period of several millennia.
By way of sharing our sprinkles of fairy dust, as well as being thoroughly informative, this year we have decided to focus on three regions by highlighting their specific preparations for Norooz.
A week before Norooz, all households throughout Iran are probably busy with their annual spring-cleaning; superstition has it that all evil should be washed away from the house with the coming of the New Year, which is also synonymous with the idea of purging one’s heart from evil, envy, and negativity. Therefore, in northern Iran, the green and lush regions of Mazandaran and Gilan, which are an exception to Iran’s semi-arid landscape, one can see a long procession of carpets being washed by the river. Water is probably a universally respected symbol of fertility and health; jumping over a stream helped ward of sickness another was to wash one’s face with a jug filled with it, followed by pouring some on their fields, with hopes for a good harvest. Prepared specially for the main day, is a dish called ‘torsho tareh’, which consists of varied fresh herbs mixed with eggs, rendered sour with the addition of limejuice and served alongside rice. The northern women-folk are known for their free-spirited temperaments; animated, colorfully clad and placed amidst the backdrop of some of the most visually striking sceneries in Iran, the women of the north put on a refreshing display of camaraderie and happiness, while welcoming the new season.
Looking to the northwestern plains, the Azeri people of Iran are predominantly Turkic in ethnicity. When thinking of Iranian Azerbaijan the first cities that come to mind are Tabriz and Ardebil. Tabriz, known for its intricate cuisine is the more popular of the two. It is customary to make dulmas for the New Year, where they are literally meant to be cooking on the stove with the offset of the gong. Moving onto Ardebil, the elders associated the beginning of the New Year with the appearance of acrobats and tight ropewalkers, called ‘lafanbāz’. During the last ten days of the year puppet shows known as ‘takamchi’, were quite common. The entertainer would animate a goat-shaped puppet to the beats of songs welcoming Norooz; their entourage would have included the ‘yālānji’ that translate to liar or smooth talker, reciting his jokes to the rhythm of the ‘pahlavān’s’ acrobatics. Also a very religious group of people, both Tabriz and Ardebil observe the tradition of commemorating the passing of their loved ones on the first day of the year.
Photo credited to @maryyamj
Totally set apart from the rainy plains of the north, lies Yazd. Dry and smolderingly hot during summer as well as cold and harsh during winter. The terrain is as relentless as its people; their markets have historically and customarily been full of gold and sweets. Their gold tends to be distinguished by its dark yellow 24k color and their sweets for their exaggerated sweetness. During this season, its grand bazaar, that inspired Walt Disney artists in making Aladdin, will be bustling with energy and life. No city performs Norooz rites as thoroughly as Yazd, which has the largest Zoroastrian community in Iran. Leading to the first day of the New Year, their rituals include sitting in fire temples and reciting the Avesta (the name of their holy book) and praying for the wellbeing of their countrymen. They tend to keep records of their historical context and perform the rituals as they have for what they believe to be the 5774th time. According to them, the seven ‘S’ table spread which we set up for the auspicious day, represents ‘Ahura Mazda’, their principal deity, and his six followers, called ‘spentas’.
- Ahura Mazda (chief deity, also represented by his holy spirit, Spenta Mainyu) – represented as garlic, Sir
- Vohu Manah (good mind-inteligence/animals) – represented as sumac, Sumagh
- Spenta Armaiti (beneficent devotion/earth) – represented as apple, Sib
- Asha Vahishta (excellent order-truth/fire)– represented as green sprouts, Sabzi
- Khshathra Vairya (desirable dominion/metal)– represented as wheat germ pudding, Samanu
- Haurvatat (perfection-integrity/water) – represented as dried oleaster, Senjed
- Ameretat (immortality/plants) – represented as vinegar, Serkeh
Astan Quds Razavi News Website; “Norooz Rituals in Every Region of Iran.” http://news.aqr.ir/Portal/home/news/33685/14925/103232/Nor ooz%20Rituals%20in%20every%20region%20of%20Iran.
Bashiri, Iraj; “Nowruz: Origins and Rituals.” http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Nowruz/NowRuz.pdf.
Encyclopaedia Iranica; “Aməša Spənta.” http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amesa-spenta-beneficent-divinity.
Encyclopaedia Iranica; “Gilan Folklore.” http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/gilan-folklore.