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Features Voices of M-A

Voices of M-A: Celebrating Persian New Year

Every year, Iranians celebrate Persian New Year, or Norooz, on the first day of spring; this year Norooz is on March 19. Along with signifying the start of a new year in Iran, Norooz is full of symbols that evoke a spiritual journey for those celebrating. The coming of spring is significant and highlights the holiday’s focus on renewal and rebirth. Most importantly, Norooz is a time of happiness and getting together with family and friends.

Persian New Year is not only celebrated by those living in Iran, but by many families across the world, including Iranian-Americans who continue the century-old tradition.

When celebrating Norooz, it is customary to set up a special table, “Haft Seen,” of seven (haft) symbolic items that start with the Persian letter “seen.” Many people add other symbolic objects to the seven initial items. Each article serves as a wish or good blessing for the New Year.

Growing up as an Iranian-American, my parents always highlighted the importance of family and appreciation for my culture; the celebration of Persian New Year ties together those values. Every year, I get together with my aunts, uncles, and cousins to celebrate Norooz. The elders usually gift money to the children and it is important for members of the younger generation to visit their elders and wish them a happy Norooz.

Prior to Norooz, Iranians clean their homes to ensure a fresh start to the new year. My parents particularly love this tradition and always ask my sister and I to clean our closets! Appearance is also important on this day. My mother shared how when she lived in Iran, she always wore new, colorful clothes on Norooz. Today, she appreciates it when my sister and I agree to wear something new for the occasion.

A photo of me and family celebrating in 2006.
A photo of me and family celebrating in 2006.

Beyond the customs of Norooz, the holiday heightens my senses during springtime. The colorful objects and flowers on my family’s Haft Seen remind me to be more observant of springtime changes in nature, such as blossoms.

While Norooz does not mark the start of a new calendar year for Iranian-Americans, it provides an opportunity for a mini new beginning and makes me more appreciative of family.

Other Iranian-American students at M-A also celebrate Persian New Year. Senior Tara Fahimi explained, “Norooz is by far my favorite holiday of the year because its main purpose is to spend time with your family and to start the “new year” (or beginning of spring) together. Who wouldn’t love eating lots of food, dancing, and receiving gifts? I love that in the Bay Area there are such grand celebrations held for Norooz and that so many people come together to organize events to celebrate our culture.”

The feelings of happiness, renewal, and sense of community are at the heart of Persian New Year. Following the customs of Norooz is a large part of the celebration, but the feelings that Norooz evokes are what make it such a poignant holiday.

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