By Sergio Sharif, March 22 2022—
There are few who don’t welcome the warmth and blossoms of spring. For most, it represents the end of the most difficult season. For others, spring’s beginning is of cultural importance.
On the day of the spring equinox, the celebration of Nowruz is observed. Nowruz, literally meaning “new day,” is the ancient custom of recognizing the beginning of the new year in the Persian calendar. A relic from the Zoroastrians, whose influence spanned from the Caucuses to India, this celebration is still a part of many cultures and their diaspora. Indeed, it is recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Although it is a predominantly Persian event, there are many who celebrate it in countries such as Turkey, Afghanistan, India and many of the central Asian countries as well. Even among those far from home, Nowruz is a key moment in the year. It is a time to continue the practice of countless ancestors — a nod to the past.
Around the time of Nowruz, the observants’ house metamorphs into a place of symbols and traditions. One of the most important practices is the making of the haft seen, which translates to “seven S’s.” This involves gathering seven symbolic items and placing them on a decorated table. It is a focal point of the celebrations and a reminder of the purpose of this event. An obligatory sabzeh — a small bundle of herbs symbolizing new growth — also adorns the table.
And like any other celebration, the meal plays a central part. In Persian households, the staple food consists of fish, sabzeh polo and kookoo. There is no equivalent in most cultures, but the symbols are still meaningful to all.
Here in Calgary there will be many celebrations among the many thousands of Persians, Afghans and other cultures which cherish this event. Although most of the celebration happens at home, there have been some events as well. For instance, the Persian Gulf Club here at the University of Calgary will be hosting a poetry night to mark Nowruz.
Nowruz ultimately is a time of renewal and hope for the start of a new season. Regardless of faith, ethnicity or origin, there is something for everyone to celebrate as spring begins.