Jewish and Persian Connections Mission

In response to statements emanating from the Middle East regarding nuclear threat to both the Jewish and Persian peoples, we seek to project an alternative voice on Jewish- Persian relations that disseminates knowledge about the historical and cultural ties between these two peoples, fosters friendship and openings for creative exchange, and contributes to the identity of adults and children of mixed Jewish and Persian ancestry.

Seeking Your Personal Stories and Intellectual Contributions!

Please submit your personal writings on the following topics:
a) Relationships between Persians and Jews
b) Raising a Persian Jewish child
C) Historical and/or current affairs between Persians and Jews/ Iran and Israel
D) Current Debate: Is the current conflict between Iran and Israel inherently tied into the Israeli- Palestinian conflict?

All submissions welcome including poetry, links and other recommendations. Please email any submissions to Authors are responsible for providing respectful, factually accurate, and fully citated submissions as a pre-requisite for inclusion. Articles should be a minimum of 2 paragraphs in length up to a maximum of 10 pages. Please use proper citation when referencing another writer or speaker. Assume no specific religious knowledge and explain all references to any religions. Translate all non-English words used, including Farsi, Hebrew, Arabic, Ladino or Yiddish. Writers wishing to anonymously post may use their first name only. Please send all submissions to All information outside of your submission will remain strictly confidential including your email and contact information. Thank you for your contributions!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nowruz Celebrations

By Accessed 03/19/2007

Khaneh Tekani - Spring Cleaning Sofreh Haft Sin - The Seven S's of the New Year
Chahar Shanbeh Suri - Red Wednesday Bonfire Festival Deed-o Bazdeed - New Years Visits
Norooz History - New Years Roots Sizdah Bedar - The Day 13 Outing
Sal Tahvil - New Year's Times Sofreh Haft Sin Photo Album
Haji Firuz & Amoo Norooz- The Persian Troubadour & Santa Claus Norooz Celebration Photo Album
Sofreh Preparation - Growing Sabzeh & Egg Painting

Persian Celebrations
Khaneh Tekani - Spring Cleaning
Noruz (new year, or more literally "new day") is the most important celebration for Iranians. Perhaps the first step in preparing for Noruz or Now-Ruz, the Persian New Year, is Khaneh Tekani, the annual house cleaning or the spring-cleaning. In ancient times, Iranians believed that spirits of their deceased families and friends would come to visit their descendants and their homes. For this occasion, the hosts clean their homes. The word Khaneh or the slang Khooneh means house or home. The word Tekani means shaking. So the Iranians are literally shaking the house to clean it - much like you shake a rug to clean it. During the Khaneh Tekani, every room in the house is thoroughly cleaned. Iranian families gather to wash the rugs, carpets, and curtains. They polish silverware, pots and pans, and renew old items in the house. In addition, for Norooz, every member of the family renews their look by purchasing Norooz clothes to be worn on the day of Norooz. Families fill their homes with the sweet fragrance of flowers such as hyacinth and narcissus. The burning of wild rue, which is called esfand, is practiced to keep evil spirits away and provide a nice aroma in the house.

Chahar Shanbeh Suri - red wednesday Bonfire Festival
On the eve of the Wednesday before Norooz, the Iranians celebrate Chahar Shanbeh Suri. This is commonly known as the Wednesday Feast or the Festival of the last Wednesday as it is always celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. The word Chahar Shanbeh means Wednesday and Suri is red.

The festivities start in the early evening. Children and fun seeking adults, wrap themselves in white sheets or costumes reenacting visits by the departed spirits. They run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons. This is called Gashog-Zani or spoon banging and ushers out the last unlucky Wednesday of the year. They also go to their neighbors, knock on doors and ask for treats, a tradition very similar to Halloween. The main event of Chahar-Shanbeh Suri is the setting of seven little fires consisting of dried bushes and shrubs, which are placed on the ground. Adults and children alike gather to jump over the flames to sing, and celebrate the renewal of life. While jumping the flames, the person chants “Sorkhi-e to az man. Zardi-e man az to.” The literal translation is, “Your fiery red color is mine and my sickly yellow paleness is yours.” Loosely translated, this means you want the fire to take your paleness, sickness and problems and in turn give you redness, warmth and energy. There is no religious significance attached to Chahar Shanbeh Suri and it serves as a cultural festival for all Iranian Jews, Moslems, Armenians, Turks and Zoroastrians alike.

Iranians believe that wishes will come true on this night. Wishes are made and in order to make them come true, it is customary to prepare Noodles & Bean soup called Ash-e Chahar Shanbeh Suri and share with the poor. Friends and strangers alike are also served with nuts and dried fruits, the Ajil-e Chahar Shanbeh Suri. The Ajil has a mixture of seven dried nuts and fruits, pistachios, roasted chic peas, almond, hazelnuts, figs, apricots, and raisins.

To make wishes come true, people who have made wishes will stand at the corner of an intersection, or hide behind walls to listen to conversation of those passing by. If the conversations overheard are positive then the wish will come true. This tradition is called Fal Gush meaning 'listening for one's fortune'. Finally the Chahar Shanbeh Suri evening ends with fire works and family gatherings for a festive meal.

This ancient festival has been celebrated for thousands of years ever since the birth of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia. Persians celebrated the last 10 days of the year in the annual feast of souls, Hamaspathmaedaya, Farvardigan or popularly Forodigan). They believed Foruhars, the guardian angels for humans and the spirits of deceased would come back for a visit. These spirits were entertained as honored guests, and were given a ritual farewell at the dawn of the New Year. The bon fires also served as a welcome to these guests. Small clay figurines in shape of humans and animals symbolizing all departed relatives and animals were also placed on the rooftops. Flames were burnt all night to ensure the returning spirits were protected from the forces of Ahriman. This was called Suri festival. There were gatherings in joyful assemblies, with prayers, feasts and communal consumption of ritually blessed food. Rich and poor met together and the occasion was a time of general goodwill when quarrels were resolved and friendships renewed.

On the Thursday after Chahar Shanbeh Suri, Shab-e Jome is celebrated which is a traditional big feast of polo and chicken. Follow ling this ritual assures one that there will be a similar dinner at least once a week during the coming year.

back to the top

Norooz History - New Years Roots
The word Norooz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Iranians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

The concepts of Hell, Heaven, Resurrection, the coming of the Messiah, individual and last judgment are the foundation for the Zoroastrian belief system and still exist in Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions. In their ancient text, ‘Bundahishn’ foundation of creation, it is said that The Lord of Wisdom (Ahura Mazda) residing in the eternal light was not God. He created all that was good and became God. The Hostile Spirit, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), residing in the eternal darkness created all that was evil and became the Hostile Spirit. Everything that produced life, protected and enriched it was regarded as good. This included all forces of nature beneficial to humans. Earth, waters, sky, animals, plants, justice, honesty, peace, health, beauty, joy and happiness were regarded as belonging to the good forces. All that threatened life and created disorder belonged to the hostile spirits.

The next creation was the material world, created at seven different stages. The first creation was the sky, and the second was the first ocean. Earth, a big flat dish sitting on the ocean, was the third. The next three creations were the first plant, the first animal a bull and the first human Gayo-maretan (Kiomarth, both male and female). The seventh creation was fire together with the sun.

To protect his creations the Lord of Wisdom created six holy immortals known as ‘Amesha Spenta’. The first three were male deities. Khashtra (Sharivar), the protector of sky; Asha-Vahishta (Ordibehesht) and Vahu Manah (Bahman) protected fire and animals. The other three were female deities: Haurvatat (Khordad) to protect water, Spenta Armaiti (Esfand) protector of mother earth and Ameratat (Amoordad) for plant life. Ahura Mazda became the protector of humans and the holy fire. The six immortals are the names of six of the months in the current Iranian calendar. To begin the cycle life, the plant produced seeds; the bull produced all animals and from the human came the first male and female. The rest of the humanity was created from their union. This was called the first No Ruz, meaning new day and the beginning of the cycle of life. It starts at the beginning of spring and the seven creations are remembered and embraced through the Iranian New Year spread called Sofreh Haft Sin. Norooz is celebrated for 13 days after the mark of spring equinox.

back to the top

Sal Tahvil - New Year's Times
The Sal Tahvil or the Sa'at-e Tahvil is New Year's Eve, which is the official time for the Spring Equinox. Every year the equinox occurs at a different point in time, so the date, although accurately measured (to the date and time) is different each year, but close to March 20th.

Sa'at- tahvil is an important moment, as it is a time for forgiving each other, putting away petty differences and looking forward to building more constructive relationships. The countdown is often followed carefully on the radio or television, as the family gathers around the haft sin, in their new clothes, carefully watching the egg or preparing to take a picture of the Sal Tahvil. Legend says that there is a bullfish in the ocean of time carrying the world on one of its horns. When the Sal-e Tahvil arrives, the bullfish tosses the world over to the other horn, resulting in a tremor that will dislodge the egg and send it rolling to the side of the mirror.

As the countdown ushers in the new year, everyone rejoices, kiss each other, exchanging Norooz greetings such as “Eid-i shoma mobarak!”or “Sal-e No Mobarak!” which means Happy New Year. Gifts, usually money called Eidi, placed inside the Koran are exchanged, given by older members to the younger members of the family. Members of the family then celebrate by singing, eating, drinking and taking pictures.

It is also believed that the next visitor to the home will set the tone for luck in the new year, so generally the family will send out the youngest or most innocent member of the family to go outside with some sweets and knock on the door, come in and pretend to be a visitor. After the family has celebrated, the next 13 days are spent visiting the families.

Families gather to take pictures and share sweets and celebrate.

Observance of NOROOZ Saal-Tahvil (turn of the year) - is on



Saal Tahvil Link for Current Year

back to the top

Haji Firuz & Amoo Norooz- The Persian Troubadour & Santa Claus
The old Haji, named Firuz or Firooz, is the troubadour who ushers in the new year with his song, dance and merriment. Haji Firooz symbolizes the rebirth of the Sumerian god of sacrifice, Domuzi, who was killed at the end of each year and reborn at the beginning of the New Year. Wearing an elaborate red costume which is a cross between a court jester, santa claus and perhaps a venician at carnival, the herald uses his tambourine and enlists a few fellow comedians to make the world laugh. Traditionally, Haji Firooz wears black make up and this is thought to have come from ancient times when the entertainment was provided by black slaves who, with their rather 'strange accents' for the Persians brought laughter to the people. Today’s modern Haji Firooz sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading joy for Norooz. He often appears at gatherings and entertains by singing, dancing, telling stories and also a few good jokes. Children and adults all love Haji Firooz who, if you are lucky, will tell a few good tales like that of Amoo Norooz (Amoo Norouz) and other old Persian tales. Amoo Norooz, a distant relative of Haji Firooz is responsible for giving gifts to the children much like Santa Claus. He makes their wishes come true and ensures that they are happy and healthy for many years to come.

Sofreh Preparation - Growing Sabzeh & Egg painting
You can start growing your sabzeh which is the first S on the sofreh and consists of green sprouts, about 2 or 3 weeks before Norooz. This also depends on how tall you want your Sabzeh. You will need whole lentils (adas) or whole-wheat seeds sold at Iranian stores. We recommend you use these as grocery store seeds do not always yield the best results.

Place a good amount of seed on a nice plate or dish, about 1 cm thick, Soak the seeds in water for two days and then put them on a shallow plate and cover it with a cotton cloth or thin towel. With the cloth over the seeds, place plate in a sunny location or under a light if you do not have access to the sun. Squirt water over the shoots several times a day, and keep them covered with the cloth. Ensure that the seeds do not get too dry or over-soaked. In about 2 or 3 days, small sprouts appear. Remove the cloth and let the sabzeh grow (increased exposure to the sun will increase the speed of its growth). You can grow several dishes in case they rot or go moldy which they often do. Some ladies have a reputation for having green hands and growing great Sabzeh. They might be asked to grow some for friends and relatives. If your hands are far from "green" on your first attempts, do not worry, most Iranian stores sell pre-grown Sabzeh and many people simply buy them.

Another fun tradition for the children is the painting of the eggs for Norooz. This is much like the Easter tradition of painting eggs and can be a great way to teach children about the significance of Haft Sin. The best time to do this is the day before Norooz. That way your eggs will be ready for the sofreh and they will last for the next 13 days of the New Year.

back to the top

Sofreh Haft Sin - The Seven S's of the New Year

The Sofreh Haft Sin (Haft Seen) is the spread, which the family gathers around to celebrate the New Year. It is the focal point of the celebration and ensuing visits and as such Iranians take great care and pride in putting together a lavish and elaborate spread to signify all that they want in the new year. The word Haft means seven and Sin stands for the “S” in the alphabet. Sofreh means spread, the floor of which is usually a nice rich material or embroidered fabric. The spread contains the seven specific things that start with “s”. The sofreh is prepared a day or two before Norooz and placed either on the floor or on the table for about two weeks after Norooz. In addition to the seven items, you may place additional items on the sofreh that will signify renewal, happiness, wealth, good health or any thing that you desire for the New Year. You will find additional items that start with S and other items that represent life in our list. Remember that this celebration is one of hope, promise and good fortune, so have fun with it and share the joy with all your friends and family.

Here is a list of suggested items for your sofreh:

Persian Name Definition Description & Symbolism Position
Sabzeh Spring Sprouts Made from wheat or lentil this S signifies rebirth and renewal. Read about how you grow these sprouts at home. The First S on the Sofreh.
Senjed A sweet, dry fruit of a lotus tree The fragrant and blooming lotus tree makes people fall in love so it is natural that its fruit would signify love and affection The Second S on the Sofreh

Sib Apple A big red apple represents health and beauty. Third S on the Sofreh
Samanu Wheat Pudding Wheat and wheat products signify sweetness and fertility. Fourth S on the Sofreh
Serkeh Vinegar White Vinegar signifies age and patience. Fifth S on the Sofreh
Somagh Crushed Sumac berries This S symbolizes the spice of life. Some say Somagh represents the color of the sunrise and with the sun all evil is conquered. Sixth S on the Sofreh
Seer Garlic This medicinal S is a sign of good health. Seventh S on the Sofreh
Sekeh Gold Coins Wealth and Prosperity Optional S.
Sonbol Hyacinth Flower Purple or pink hyacinth are common on the Sofreh and also represent life and beauty. Optional S.
Sangak Flatbread Noon-e Sangak represents prosperity for the feasts. It can be accompanied by Naan-o Panir, which is Iranian feta cheese and fresh herbs to be eaten at the feast. Optional S.
Sohan Asali Honey Almonds A sweet honey candy made with pistachios. Optional S.
Gold Fish Mahi Gold Fish in a clear white bowl represents life and the end of the astral year associated with the constellation Pisces. On the Sofreh
Ayne A Mirror To bring light & brightness into the New Year Head of the Sofreh
Sha’am Two Candelabras Candles large or small can be used and symbolize fire & energy. On either side of the mirror.
Tokhm-e Morgh Decorated Eggs Symbolizes fertility. Eggs are painted by children much like Easter eggs are painted. On the Sofreh. Can be as elaborate as desired.
Assorted Nuts Iranians love nuts. They can be roasted pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts On the Sofreh
Scriptures Koran, Bible, Torah, Avesta or other Scriptures, or Poetry depending on beliefs Symbolizes blessings and faith in the New Year. You can also place a Divan-e Hafez or other book of faith and knowledge. Placed in the middle. Put money in the pages of the book and give out Eidi after sal tahvil.
Shirini Sweets & Pastries Noghl, Baaghlavaa, Toot, Noon-e Berenji, Noon-e Nokhodchi and any other sweets you prefer On the Sofreh
Esfand or Esphand Wild Rue A brazier "Manghal" holding burning coals sprinkled with "Esphand" a popular incense. It keeps the evil eye away and brings on health. Nearby

Other optional items: rose water (gol ab), various spices, tray of dry beans, wheat and grain products, various fruit baskets, flowers, vegetables, sweets, nuts and snacks are all welcome. Some families also add a Jaa Namaaz (prayer mat). You can also include a termeh, which is a traditional Persian silk or gold embroidered cloth, handed down from generations to symbolize family and tradition. Visit our real sofreh pictures.

back to the top

Deed-o Bazdeed - New Years Visits
The Sal Tahvil, and the eve of the New Year are spent at home with immediate family. After that the tradition of Deed-o Bazdeed starts. This expression means to visit (see) and to visit back or again signifying the next 13 days of the New Year, which bring visits to and from family, friends and neighbors. On the first day of these visits, the families gather at the house of the head of the family, usually the oldest person such as a grandfather or grandmother of the family. This order is kept then from oldest to youngest and serves as a way of paying respect to the family. During these visits, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors and distant relatives gather to celebrate and enjoy the reunion, which may not otherwise occur during the busy year. Iranian sweets, shirini, ajil, tea and various fruits, or entire meals are served at these functions. Children get presents called Eidi from the older relatives, which range from toys to cash. The visits continue going from grandparents to the aunts, uncles, family friends and so on. At the end of thirteen days, the families go on the wonderful and fun family outing called Seezah Bedar.

back to the top

Sizdah Bedar - The Day 13 Outing
Seezdah Bedar is the last holiday of the long Norooz break and is a day filled with relaxation and fun outdoors. Seezdah means 13 and Bedar means away or out. Iranians consider 13 to be an unlucky number and so for this reason, they spend the 13th day of the New Year outside the home. Seezdah-Bedar is in essence a national picnic that is celebrated with everyone going to parks, hills and mountainsides to spend the day with nature, wishing the evil spirits away. This way one hopes to avoid any bad incidents that may occur.

Family members rise early in the morning and prepare for the day long picnic. Iranians take their picnics very seriously and pack all the necessary items, leaving maybe the refrigerators behind. Supplies may include sandwiches, traditional polos, drinks, sweets, snacks such as ajil, carpets or rugs, the samavar, a ghalyan (water-pipe), backgammon, chess, cards, balls and other games for the children. Usually areas filled with nature, greenery and streams are chosen to commemorate this cultural holiday. More importantly, the sabzeh (sprouted wheat or lentils) is brought from the sofreh Haft-Sin to be thrown in a flowing stream or creek. It is believed that the sabzeh, which has by this time turned a little yellow, symbolizes sickness and problems. Therefore, it is thrown and carried away by the stream. The day is spent playing games, going for long walks in the fields, eating, drinking and enjoying each other’s company. In addition, Seezdah Bedar is a big day of hope, and people who wish for things follow the tradition of tying grass together. For example if a young girl wishes to find a husband in the coming year she will tie grass and chant “Seezdah Bedar Sale degar, khune-ye shuhar”. This rhyme literally means, “Next seezdah bedar, I will be at my husband’s home”. There are various chants for people who wish to get a job or be healthy or wealthy and so on. At the end of this day, the haft sin may be cleared away and families return to work.

back to the top

©2004 PersianMirror, Inc. All rights reserved. The PersianMirror mark and logo are trademarks of PersianMirror, Inc. Privacy • Terms