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Nowruz: Spring brings rebirth and renewal

Nowruz or the Iranian New Year is a famous festival celebrated mainly by Persians all around the world. GVS looks at its origins, customs, and how it is celebrated in Pakistan and elsewhere.

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The Iranian New Year ‘Nowruz’ is celebrated annually across the world from 19-21 March, depending on astronomical calculations. Tracing its origins in Iran, the festival dates back thousands of years and marks Spring’s arrival. Along with Persians, the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, and other regions participate in this festival.

Around 300 million people celebrate Nowruz every year, which is why the United Nations in 2010 officially recognized the International Nowruz Day to be celebrated every year on March 21.

Nowruz is a festival bringing together numerous peoples in a shared bond of love, peace and solidarity, as they embark upon a new year without the baggage of past enmities and strained relationships.

The participants make affirmations toward life in harmony with nature – complementing and abetting, rather than endangering it. As the festival marks the arrival of Spring – symbolizing the rejuvenation of nature – preservation and sustainability of nature remain an underlying theme.

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Customs of Nowruz

The over two-week-long celebration is lined up with delicious meals, often cooked rice and vegetables – family gatherings, poetry recitals and street dances. People get dressed up in new clothes, clean up and decorate their homes, and plan outings with closed ones. The entire night of Nowruz is spent with family.

As a prelude to Nowruz, on the eve of the last Wednesday, before the new year starts, Iranians worldwide celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri in which bonfires are lit and participants jump over flames.

Another custom includes spoon-banging. This is similar to trickor-treat, a Halloween custom where children knock on doors searching for treats. In spoon-banging, people wearing masks go door-to-door, asking for snacks. Children are also gifted small toys and toffees.

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A widely popular tradition of Nowruz is the Nowruz table setting up known as the Sofreh-ye Haft Sin. In Iran, the table displays seven objects, all starting with the letter ‘S’. It houses numerous symbolic items, including candles, a mirror, water, eggs and fruits. Each of these things symbolizes abundance, happiness, fertility, purity and brightness.

Nowruz is a celebration of a life filled with peace, health and happiness. It represents rebirth and renewal, self-reflection and course correction towards a better life marked by a renewed freshness and bloom. The return of Spring after a long winter depicts the triumph of good over evil and joy over sorrow.

With the power and influence of the Iranian diaspora, the event is celebrated throughout the globe. Being a hallmark of Iranian culture and civilization, the new year festival of Nowruz invites greetings and well wishes from different communities. Nowruz is considered the most important national holiday in Iran.

Celebration in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the festival of Nowruz is typically celebrated in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and near Afghanistan’s border areas. In Gilgit Baltistan, a three-day Nowruz festival is held where special prayers in the congregation are offered. Outdoor activities, including polo and musical nights, are arranged.

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The federal capital also hosts celebrations of Nowruz – with the Iranian embassy organizing an international Nowruz Festival where an Iranian stall displaying portraits of tourist attractions, handicrafts and traditional cuisines is set up.

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