Nowruz, Persian New Year, the oldest festival in the world
Nowruz (Persian: نوروز) is a traditional Persian festival celebrating the new year and is considered the oldest festival in the world, falling on the spring equinox. Its origin dates back to the pre-Islamic Persian period. Even today, Nowruz is celebrated in the territories where the Persian Empire arrived: Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Gilgit-Baltistan Kurdistan and in Iranian, Kurdish and Turkish communities around the world. The term Nowruz is derived from the combination of two ancient Persian words: nava (new) and rezanh (day), and even in modern Persian it has retained the same meaning No (new) and rouz (day). Nowruz was already celebrated in the Achaemenid period (7th-4th centuries BC), but according to Iranian mythology Nowruz dates back 15,000 years to the time of the legendary Persian king Yima. Yima, a mythical figure in Zoroastrianism, is indicated as the creator of the festival, which at the time was a celebration of the arrival of spring. Zoroaster, a prophet of the Zoroastrian religion, later reorganised the festival in honour of Ahura Mazda, the main deity of Zoroastrianism.
Nowruz has undoubtedly been celebrated for over 3000 years by all the peoples who were once part of the Persian Empire. Iran is the country where Nowruz originated and where the tradition is probably most deeply felt. Nowruz corresponds to the end of the year in the Persian calendar and various rituals are associated with it: Khane Tekani the cleaning of the house done the 12 days before the Nowruz, Chaharshanbe Suri the fire festival during which bonfires are lit and men have to jump over them, an allegorical representation of light defeating darkness, and finally the Haft Sin (seven "S") which involves the preparation of a table with seven elements whose names begin with S in Persian. Seven is the sacred number and symbolises the seven archangels with whose help Zarathustra founded his religion almost three thousand years ago. Haft Sin brings the inhabitants of the house good luck, health, prosperity, spiritual purity and long life.
In Iran, Nowruz celebrations last up to 13 days and during this time people must visit each other's relatives to wish each other well and bring gifts of sweets and flowers. Older people are given money donated in holy books.
The traditional Nowruz lunch is rice cooked with herbs and eaten with a fried fish from the Caspian Sea. On the thirteenth day in Iran, people have an outdoor picnic, believing that such traditions take away bad luck throughout the year.
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