Nowruz 2021: History, importance of occasion is celebrated as Persian New Year

Nowruz 2021: History, importance of occasion is celebrated as Persian New Year

The Persian New Year Nowruz 2021 is being celebrated today (Saturday, 20 March). The Persian New Year marks the first day of the spring season and will begin at 3:07 pm on Spring Equinox (time of the year when day and night are of equal length).

Over 300 million people worldwide celebrate the festival, including those from Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries in Central Asia and West Asia.

For millions of people across the globe, Nowruz is no small celebration. Think Christmas, New Year's and Fourth of July combined -- and add to it fire festivities, delicious meats, rice and spices, family gatherings, street dances and loud banging on pots.

But it's much more than that, too. Nowruz "promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families," the United Nations says. It's a time of reconciliation and neighborliness, "contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities."

And we could all use some of that, no matter what it's called.

Significance of Nowruz

The significance of the festival is that it marks the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature. The rituals practiced on the day of Nowruz are a blend of the traditions of both Eastern and Western civilisations. Nowruz brings people together and promotes peace between different communities.

Nowruz celebration

The most important part of Nowruz celebration is having Haft Seen (Seven S). A table is set up with seven items whose names start with the letter ‘s.’ The rituals may vary depending on the region, however, most people celebrate the festival by setting up this table of food items.

What is it?

Nowruz is the Persian New Year. But you don't have to be Persian to celebrate. Also known as Nauryz, Navruz or Nowrouz, it means "new day." The new year will ring in on Saturday, March 20.

It's no coincidence it falls on the first day of spring. The Iranian calendar is a solar calendar, meaning time is determined, through astronomical observations, by Earth's movement around the sun. So, the first day of the year always kicks off with the natural phenomenon of the vernal equinox. 

It's not a religious holiday but rather a universal celebration of new beginnings: wishing prosperity and welcoming the future while shedding away the past. That's why families use this time to deep clean their homes and closets and buy fresh clothing.

It's a monthlong celebration, filled with parties, craft-making, street performances and public rituals.
And yes, lots of food. 

Who celebrates it?

March 21 was officially recognized in 2010 as International Nowruz Day by the United Nations at the request of countries including Afghanistan, Albania, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. 

But it's reach is even wider. More than 300 million people worldwide celebrate Nowruz -- and have celebrated it for more than 3,000 years -- from the Balkans to the Black Sea Basin to Central Asia to the Middle East and elsewhere.

Hundreds of US communities celebrate Nowruz, too.

Los Angeles, home to one of the largest Persian populations outside Iran, prides itself on hosting the largest Nowruz festival in the country, with daylong festivities for visitors of any age. You can also find a Nowruz celebration in almost every state in the nation. Though, due to the coronavirus pandemic, festivities will be understandably muted this year.

International Nowruz Day

Keeping in mind the significance of this festival, the United Nations marks 21 March as the International Nowruz Day. The festival was added to the ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ in 2009 and the occasion has been celebrated since 2010. Although Nowruz can fall on any day between 19 March to 22 March, International Nowruz Day is celebrated on 21 March.