Eco-Jews are busy now celebrating Passover, while Christians in the Holy Land and the world over ready themselves for Easter. Iranians, we learn had their own celebrations this time of the year, coinciding with the vernal equinox on March 21.
Iran’s political makeup and leadership may not be making many friends these days, but one of Iran’s annual festivals, one called Nowruz or Persian New Year festival is being celebrated in a number of countries, and by several different religions as well.
Nowruz or Nowrouz, which means “New Day” in Persian, officially marks the first day of Spring in the Persian calendar and corresponds to the Spring Equinox which is marked on Western calendars as March 21.
The holiday is not only celebrated by the Iranians, but also by countries in Central Asia, South Asia, Western China, The Crimea, and by a number of ethnic groups in Balkan countries such as Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia. The holiday marks the period when the sun crosses the celestial equator and creates equal day and night.
The sun and fire are important elements in the ancient Persian religion of Zoroaster and the festival is observed by this ancient monotheistic faith. In fact, Nowruz is one of the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals the festival is also observed by the much newer Bahai faith which also has its origins in Iran.
The founder of the Bahai religion, Bahalulah, placed much importance on the observance of this annual change of seasons and Bahai faith members the world over eagerly await this event.
Legend has it that this festival, which has it origins in ancient Persia around 600 BCE, is the basis for the Jewish festival of Purim which also comes around this time and is based on the lunar calendar. The festival is celebrated by a number of Muslim communities, including among the Alewite and Alevi sects.
Signifying rebirth, some of the main customs of the holiday includes spring cleaning and inter-family visitation.
As in other holidays that celebrate the New Year, it is believed that what people do on Nowruz will affect them for the remainder of the year. Certain flowers such as tulips and hycinths are placed in the home. Like before Jewish holidays, new clothing is also purchased. Another nice custom involves something sweet being hidden somewhere outside the home, and whoever finds its and brings it inside will have a better year. Families also visit the graves of loved ones on the last Thursday or Friday of the old year proceeding festival.
Green Prophet believes faith plays an important role in spreading environmental awareness, and that joint environmental concerns can unite faiths. Nowrouz and its many derivations means so much to so many people, it may yet be an excellent ecological “bridge” to unite peoples the world over.
While on the topic of Iran, why not visit some of Iran’s beautiful eco tourism sites?
[Image via Hamed Saber]