Iran celebrates persian New Year
Various events to mark Nowruz through Thursday
By Philip Iglauer
Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is celebrated on the vernal equinox, usually on March 21, ever year, but Iran will celebrate this year every day from today (March 26) through March 29.
Iran’s top envoy in Korea said the Nowruz celebrations his country’s diplomatic mission here organized last year were so popular that venues requested they do it again.
Nowruz is celebrated by some 300 million people in about a dozen nations from Albania to Afghanistan.
“You know the Iranian community here is not so big, but we organized a program for Nowruz last year for the Korean public and, this year, they asked us to do it again for the Korean people,” Iranian Ambassador to Korea Ahmad Masoumifar in an interview with The Korea Times at the Iranian Embassy in Dongbinggo-dong, Seoul. “This year we will have a full week of Nowruz celebrations.”
This year marks the year 1391 on the Persian calendar. This year Korea and Iran celebrate 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
The embassy and the Worldwide Culture & Art Interchange Association have pulled out the stops to expand Korean-Iranian cultural exchanges.
Nowruz dates back to antiquity, with central importance in Zoroastrianism.
A popular troupe of Iranian musicians came to Korea to perform seven shows from Sunday through this week for the Nowruz celebrations.
Popular musical group Navaye Del and Korean performers Heo Yoon-jeong, Lim Won-sick and Chae Soo-kyeong showcase traditional instruments, songs and dance.
Masoumifar said it is the oldest New Year celebration still practiced in modern times. Indeed, Zoroaster himself may have inaugurated it.
The U.N. declared it an intangible international heritage of humanity in 2009 and the U.N. General Assembly recognized Nowruz as an international holiday. The “Haft-sin,” or the traditional New Year’s table setting, is a key prop of every typical Iranian home.
Masoumifar said he expects mostly the Korean public to attend, but added some foreign diplomats are also expected to attend the Nowruz performances.
There are about 1,000 Iranians living in Seoul and around the country.
“We expect around 400 people are expected to attend the Tuesday performances at the Seoul Art Center on Tuesday,” he said
A key prop during the Persian New Year season in every typical Iranian home is the traditional table setting, or “Haft-Seen.”
The term “Haft-Seen” means “The 7 ‘S’s,” referring to seven items that begin with the letter S in Farsi. The number seven has been regarded as magical by Iranians since ancient times and is symbolic of heaven's highest angels.
The Nowruz table at the Iranian Embassy includes such items as apples, hyacinth, vinegar, garlic, wild olives and wheat germ pudding, as well as other symbolic and sacred items, such as a mirror, gold fish and the Koran.
Whether on a table in the embassy here or in one’s home in Iran, all of the items collectively represent the triumph of good over evil and humanity’s co-existence with nature.
“It signifies close harmony with nature. At the beginning of spring, all of nature experiences rebirth, Masoumifar said. “I think it is the oldest New Year festival in the world, starting more than 3,000 years ago. It dates back to Zoroastrian tradition.”
Spring cleaning is also a big part of the Persian New Year, as well as a convenient excuse to visit the homes of family and friends.
No holiday would be complete without all the delicious dishes that accompany traditional festivities. The New Year's Day traditional meal is called Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with green herbs served with fish.
The traditional seasoning for Sabzi Polo are parsley, coriander, chives and dill. “Most people prefer to have this during the holiday of Nowruz,” Masoumifar said.
Other delicacies include halva, dolma barg and baghlava, including naan berenji, Persian rice cookies, a specialty of Qazvim City, which happens to be Masoumifar’s home town.