Nowruz, (which means “New Day” in the Farsi language) is a 13-day celebration of the arrival of spring and marks the beginning of the Persian new year. Festivities start precisely on the vernal equinox (equal night and day), which falls on a different day each year. Nowruz is marked by more than 300 million people of Persian origin in different regions of the world, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan among them. It has roots in Zoroastrian religion, which predates both Christianity and Islam.

It is a time of renewal and hope: For thousands of years, peace, solidarity with ancestral relationships, family, and neighbors have been celebrated during Nowruz. Respect for nature, living in harmony with others, and embracing new opportunities are also central to this holiday.

One of the most important moments in Nowruz is gathering around a table decorated with symbols of purity, brightness, livelihood and wealth, to enjoy a special meal with loved ones. Gifts are exchanged, especially for children, many of which are made by artisans.

Another major tradition involves the Haft-Seen, a small, household altar that can hold apples for good health, candles for light, eggs for fertility, wheatgrass for rebirth and renewal, or a gold coin for abundance and prosperity. Each person can choose items with significance for them. Music and dancing in the streets, ritual performances involving water and fire, traditional sports, and recitals of traditional poetry are also enjoyed. 

At the end of the Nowruz, it’s customary to spend the whole day outdoors. Many people cut the wheatgrass they grew on their altars, tie knots in it and throw it into the a brook or stream – symbolizing hopes and dreams floating forward into the new year.

Happy Nowruz from Merit America – here’s wishing all of us hope, prosperity and good health in 2024!