March 21 marks the first day of spring, but for millions of people around the world, it’s also the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year or Persian New Year. This celebration coincides with the equinox, which occurs between March 19–21. For the last 3,000 years, Nowruz remains one of the most beloved, universal, and deeply embedded traditions in Persian culture. If you need some motivation to navigate big changes in your own life, or if you’ve never taken the time to understand the idea behind this honored holiday, this month might be the perfect time to start.
Unlike the versions of New Year’s you might be familiar with, Nowruz isn’t built on the foundation of fireworks, champagne flutes, and “Auld Lang Syne.” People start getting ready for Nowruz about three weeks before the actual vernal equinox. They rid their homes of any unnecessary clutter and lingering grime that’s settled in over the past year, so they can start fresh. For example, in Iran, you’re likely to see countless Persian rugs hanging outside, where their owners can beat the dust out of them. Sara, whose family celebrates Norwuz every year, explains that it “translates to ‘New Day’ in Farsi. The holiday’s essence is about cleansing oneself and one’s environment. From your home to all aspects of nature, everything experiences rebirth.”
In these same weeks leading up to the actual day, families also set aside space for a “haftsin,” or a collection of items that symbolize a different hope for the new year. While some families add their own variations to the haftsin, there are seven things that are always included: sabzeh (sprouts to symbolize rebirth), senjed (dried fruit to symbolize love), sib (apples to symbolize health), seer (garlic to symbolize self-care), samanu (sweet pudding to symbolize wealth and fertility), serkeh (vinegar to symbolize wisdom), and sumac (a spice to symbolize the sunrise of a new day).
While there are many other traditions associated with Nowruz, the most important aspect of this holiday to remember is the beauty of renewal — especially if you are facing major adjustments in your own life. Change often signifies stress, but if you can allow Nowruz to shape your perspective, you might look at your challenges as a positive opportunity to celebrate renewal and a brand-new season of your life.