From the first year Shary and I were together I embraced the whole idea of Nowruz. The fun, the laughter, and of course… the food. I love the fact that it really doesn’t matter if everyone’s Haft Seen tables are decorated differently and for me it’s an opportunity to make a special cake for when the family comes home.
When the children were young we would create the table together. I do admit that if I had forgotten green sprouts/cress (sabzeh), I had been known to cut our garden grass with a bit of root and even make a goldfish either with paper or gold wrapping and suspend it in some ridiculous fashion in a bowl of water! I really don’t think it matters how we do it, as we celebrate it for the children to know and understand part of their heritage. It is a very important aspect in Persian culture and we always have such fun creating the spread. I just love the tradition of it all and I will always embrace it. When the New Year came, we would then call Shary’s family in Germany and wish each other ‘Eide Shoma Mobarak’ (Happy New Year). Unfortunately, Shary’s parents are sadly no longer with us and I do miss them dearly – those conversations and celebrations we used to share. It’s so important to keep the tradition going.
What is Nowruz?
Now here’s a quick guide and a little insight into Nowruz. Anyone can join in, we would love you to tag us in your Haft Seen celebrations on @modernpersiankitchen.
Nowruz (new day) is an ancient festival that marks the beginning of Spring, celebrating the rebirth of nature. It begins at the stroke of the vernal equinox, when the sun crosses the equator and so alters slightly in time every year. This year we will, in the UK, be celebrating it this Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 21.58. In Tehran it’s Thursday 21st at 01.28.
The Haft Seen Spread
Millions of families of Persian descent come together with friends to celebrate by gathering around a ceremonial table called Haft Seen. In every home, the Haft Seen table is decorated with seven (haft) items as seven is considered to be a lucky number. Each of these items begin with the letter ‘s’ (sin/seen) and each item is a symbol of spring renewal:
Seeb (Apple) - Representing beauty
Seer (garlic) - Representing good health
Sonbol (hyacinth) - Representing spring
Samanu (sweet pudding) - Representing fertility
Sabzeh (green sprouts) - Representing rebirth
Sekkeh (coins) - Representing prosperity
Senjed (dried fruit of lotus tree) - Representing love
Each household has their own variation of the Haft Seen table, but to be honest I like to put as many as I can just for good luck. Others may include different seen’s such as serkeh (vinegar) which represents patience, or the spice sumac, with its gold colour representing the sunrise. Tables may also include a Quran, a book of poetry, a mirror and candles, reflecting into the future, a goldfish swimming in a bowl, representing life and sweets and fruits. Some people may also choose to use painted eggs to represent fertility. A bit like Christmas, the beauty of Haft Seen is that no one table is the same and each family has their own way to celebrate the special occasion.
The 13th Day
Many families enjoy the period of Nowruz together by preparing special dishes like smoked fish and herbed rice (Sabzi Polo). Then on the 13th day of the New Year (Sizdeh Bedar) the celebrations come to an end. As 13 is unlucky in Persian culture, families gather to have picnics, taking the green sprouts (sabzeh) from the Haft Seen table and throwing it in a flowing river. This act symbolises ‘letting go’ of the misfortunes of the coming year.
Hope your year is full of everything wonderful.
Eide Shoma Mobarak, Deb x