Nawruz, literally "new day," is the Iranian holiday that celebrates the beginning of spring. Nawruz was observed in Zoroastrian Persia and has long been celebrated in areas influenced by Persian culture. Nawruz begins at the vernal equinox on the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar, and lasts thirteen days. Renewal of home and of social ties are evident in the housecleaning that precedes Nawruz and in the visits paid to relatives and friends, in order of seniority, throughout the holiday. People wear new clothes at Nawruz, and children receive presents of money.
Central to the Nawruz celebration in Iran is the sofreh-e haft sin, or "cloth of the seven s's"—a decorative arrangement of seven objects whose names in Persian begin with the letter s. These are usually sumac (somaq), hyacinth (sonbol), garlic (sir), vinegar (serkeh), apple (sib), sorb tree berry (senjed), and sprouted wheat or other greens (sabzi), all of which are displayed together with a mirror, candles, colored eggs, a goldfish in a bowl, and the holy book of the family that is celebrating the holiday.
Nawruz is a national Iranian holiday, celebrated by members of all religious groups, and a marker of ethnic identity among groups associated with Persian culture outside Iran. Nawruz ends with a picnic (sizdah beh dar—"thirteenth outside"), at which each family's sabzi is tossed away, preferably into running water, to take with it any lingering unhappiness of the past year.
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Anne H. Betteridge