Dive into the Culture & Traditions of Iran
If you ask an Iranian why they are so happy during the last days of winter and the first days of spring, they will smile at you and say, we celebrate balance: balance of light and dark. We think that’s the start of something new. It’s the start of a new year with spring approaching and the night and day becoming equal. We listen to the sounds of birds and flowers blooming to understand when nature wants to give us another chance to get in tune with mother earth all over again.
During Nowruz, we sit around the Nowruz table of 7 symbols called haft-sin decoration with our family to welcome the Iranian new year and spring equinox. We go back to the way our ancestors used to celebrate this day. Nowruz has been nothing but pure joy and magic for as long as we all remember. Iranian new year has brightened up our lives after dark and cold days of winter every single time. It is for all of us a reminder that the light always finds a way to bring balance back to this land. It’s a reminder for us to trust in nature and all that it brings forth for us every year.
Details You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip
Persian new year coincides with the first day of the spring. Iranians celebrate coming spring by the Nowruz festival in different parts of Iran. Despite the Iranian origins of Nowruz, different countries celebrate it.
- Kind: traditional Iranian festival
- Location: All over Iran
- Date for this year: Friday, March 20 (Nowruz) to April 10th(Sizdah Bedar Festival)
History of Nowruz Through Ancient Stories
There are many tales about when the Nowruz festival first became a celebration. However, no one has been able to trace Nowruz celebration’s origin with certainty. Some believe it is partly rooted in the tradition of ancient Iranian religions such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. One certain thing is the origin of this festival goes back to at least 3000 years ago.
Mithraism spirituality brought forth the celebration of light. All their celebrations were linked to the rise of the sun over darkness. Imagine celebrating the sun every time it rises. You wake up and greet the light that overcomes the darkness. It is a special occasion when the spring brings forth equality of light and dark. You make a feast, wear your best clothes and dive into the rituals of celebrating light. That is the essence of Mithraism and the Nowruz celebrations.
While on the other hand, Zoroastrians believed that Nowruz brought forth not just light over darkness but also righteous acts over evil ones. They have believed that with the nature renewal, we also get another chance at guiding our actions to the direction of truth.
Popular Persian poem book, Shahnameh which goes back to at least one thousand years ago, also refers to the Nowruz festival. According to Shahnameh, a mythological king called Jamshid was the first to bring Persian new year into Persia. It marks the day King Jamshid brought peace and joy back to the land by defeating evil demons on the earth.
While there are many stories about the origin of the Nowruz traditions, they all have something in common. All stories refer to the Nowruz festival as the day that the coming of light is celebrated. People celebrate this traditional Iranian festival mainly in Iran, but it has also spread across the world to central Asia, Caucasus, Northwestern China, the Crimea and groups of Balkans.
Culture and Ambience of Iranian New Year
Everything is renewed during the Nowruz festival. Everyone deep cleans their houses as it is time to renew the decorations. As you are walking in the streets, you might see many people hanging from the walls of their houses outside trying to clean the windows for the new year. You might also notice that everyone looks much more stylish. Well, it’s an ancient tradition to buy new clothes during Nowruz. The people you’ve met before might look a bit different. It’s probably because they’ve taken their longest shower and sometimes a haircut or a makeover.
It’s as if with the smell of spring coming, Iranians also let go of all the dirt and darkness in their personal and surrounding environment. It’s as if at least once a year for the Persian new year, everyone listens to the mother earth and sweeps all that does not serve them anymore. From old clothes to old beliefs, they let go and renew.
You can smell the spring coming a few weeks before it approaches. The weather starts to get warm and so does the heart of the people in the local communities. They start preparing the town in many ways. The cities in Iran are their cleanest during this time of the year. You see many people joining hands to decorate the town just like Christmas time in many countries. Each region has its own way of making their surrounding special.
One thing that all regions have in common during the Nowruz festival is the Nowruz table. The table consists of an arrangement of seven symbolic items that have names starting with the letter “seen” in the Farsi alphabets. Items could include Seeb (apple), Sabzeh (grass bowl), Sir(garlic), samanu (sweet wheat pudding), Senjed (dried oleaster wild olive fruit), Sekeh (coin), and serekh (Vinegar).
Apple is used as a symbol for creation energy and beauty. Grass bowl is used as rebirth and new beginnings. Sweet wheat pudding is used as a symbol for affluence. Dried oleaster wild olive fruit symbolizes love, while garlic is a symbol of health. Vinegar reminds us of elder wisdom and patience and last but not least, coin brings forth the symbol for the abundance of resources in the upcoming year. It is interesting to mention that even the American White House put a haft seen during Nowruz as a celebration of the spring coming.
However, locals of Iran different cities have added their own traditional elements to the Nowruz festival throughout history. For instance, in the south of Iran, some people head to their launch in the middle of the sea to celebrate newness. The whole families leave the dry land to sing songs and dance together in unity with the flow of water on the first day of spring. They play Neyanboon (A southern native instrument) in the middle of the sea and sing songs to welcome the new year.
While in the north of Iran, the Nowruz festival is celebrated another way. The northern people welcome the Persian new year from a few weeks before with special songs and plays called “Noruz Khani”. Imagine people in their traditional colorful clothes singing rhythmically to welcome the season of light and abundance. The cities are filled with the sounds of nature mixed with songs of ancient Persia spread across the far alleys of the northern villages. That is the region where you can hear spring from every corner. The humid and green nature of the north also attracts birds of many kind sitting on the branches and tagging along locals to sing with them. The harmony of spring whispers through your ear as you walk in the north of Iran during the Nowruz festival. It’s a time to remember for the rest of the year or perhaps a lifetime.
More Magical Stories from Previous Participants of the Festival
“There was an abundance of candies of many kinds and nuts like no other day in my life. I felt as if I was swimming in the ocean of dreams coming true. Nowruz festival had the same definition as magic for me as a kid. I even liked the fact that once a year, all the kids in my neighborhood and all my friends got together during Chaharshanbesuri festival which was a few days before the Persian new year. We jumped over bonfires together singing songs. I remember for me; the Persian new year meant that I would get money and gifts from the elders. We would visit my aunts, uncles, and grandparents and they would bring out cash from inside a book to give to us as a symbol for the continuous abundance in the new year. I always saved that money and bought something I had dreamt of the whole year.
Nowruz festival was when my wishes found a way to become a reality as a kid. Growing up, I had the sweetest memories of being together with family members and friends in the Iranian new year. I got to understand the worth of community gathering as I grew up and lost many people. It was as if this ancient celebration brought forth a chance for me to get to hear the stories of my grandparents and ancestors before losing them. It was as if the Nowruz festival was created to teach me many lessons about my heritage, which I could not have learned any other way”.
“I had traveled to Tehran a few times. But there was something special about this time around. There was a mysterious joy filling the city air. I could see the spring on people’s faces. Everyone smiled. There was a Nowruz market everywhere I walked. Little kids rushed for the special Persian new year snacks while their mom was choosing the most beautiful decorations for the Nowrooz table.
I saw an old lady staring at others like me, so I reached out to her to see what she was thinking. She told me that this for her is the most magical time of the year. She said it’s like the old times, my whole family comes to visit me and we sit around a beautiful centerpiece and tell stories to each other from old days to the new beginnings. She stated that it feels most close to being in a community tribe again.
I realized what she was talking about when I went to a family gathering on the day of the Persian new year and on the Sizdah Bedar festival which was the 13thday. It felt as if Iran become my home from that day on. I felt like I was part of a local family that told me intimate stories of how they had become who they are today. It felt like I opened a new door to the memories Tehran city was holding inside its walls. I knew that the spring equinox had shined its light for me to see a more in-depth sense of Iranians culture and traditions.
My identity had a touch of my journey from that day on. I felt one step closer to a borderless world in which I could connect to another culture, knowing that my ancestors had probably shared many spring coming traditions with Persians in the old days.”.
What Makes this Festival Special and Unique?
- Getting in touch with Iran festivals by participating in this gathering.
- Enjoying Nowroozand Persian new year’s mood on the streets and homes of Iran.
- Tasting delicious Persian foods and especially Nowruz sweets.
- The opportunity of communication with local communities in a traditional ceremonial family gathering on the Nowruz celebration.
Why Do We Care?
Introducing Essential Cultural Celebrations of Iran
Nowruz festival has had a special role in the history of Iran. It is an essential element for travelers to understand this land’s culture. We want to introduce the different traditions and rituals that have shaped the identity of Iran’s culture since ancient times through Nowruz festival tours.
Creating a Unique Experience for Travelers
Creating an immersive journey through interacting with locals and experiencing the joy of celebrating coming spring with authentic families and small communities for our travelers
Changing Iran’s Global image
Promoting Iran’s attractive festivals and places so the worldwide audiences get to know that Iran is different from the mainstream media portrayal of this country
Why Take a Tour?
- Location: Although the Nowruz festival is celebrated in many places like hotels, restaurants, or historical sites, celebrating this ceremony among a family can give you the opportunity of getting in touch with locals more. Each region and ethnicity also hold specific rituals that we can show you through our Nowruz festival tour packages.
- Guide: A local guide can improve travelers’ experience. He/she knows the local culture, language, and history. Furthermore, she/he helps you to experience the Nowruz celebration like a local by explaining all the traditions for you and getting you prepared to participate in the event. Furthermore, the guide can define the reasons and meanings of different parts of the ceremony which is crucial to your understanding of this ancient celebration.
- Etiquette: Iranian new year is a family celebration. So, travelers need to learn the Iran dress code, the traditions, and the culture of the Iranian people. Some traditions came to Iranians from their ancestors so they respect these traditions. As a responsible traveler, it’s better to learn the traditions to participate in the festival in the most respectful way for the local community. We will have conversations and discussions around Iranian etiquettes beforehand.