March 21 was the first day of spring. Unlike the Gregorian calendar we use in the U.S., many nations have their calendar organized around natural solar events, like seasons. The Iranian calendar is one such example. The first day of the year is the first day of spring; the year ends with the last day of winter — usually on Mar. 20. The Iranian New Year celebration falls on the vernal equinox, marking the beginning of spring on Earth. Nowruz, as it is called in Persian, is arguably the main event on the Iranian calendar. Iranians celebrate Nowruz with millennium-old customs. It should be noted that many other nationalities of the Iranian plateau and its neighbors, such as Armenians, Turks and Azeris, also celebrate variants of Nowruz.

In Persian, “nowruz” means “new day.” In its symbolism, Nowruz is all about starting anew. The transition from one year to the next starts with an annual spring cleaning that families take care of around February. New clothes are tailored — in modern times, purchased — for everybody in the family. A specific table setting, the Haft Sin, which translates to “the seven S’s,” is set in Iranian households; this setting includes seven items that begin with the letter s, and symbolize new life, growth, purity and health. Other Iranian nations, such as Afghanistan, have their own version of this table setting that is a little different. On the vernal equinox, the astronomical beginning of spring, the family members gather around this table and congratulates each other when the time arrives. It is also customary for people to give gifts of crisp new bills to their younger family members and friends. Although rooted in the Zoroastrian religion, Nowruz is now celebrated by Iranians of all faiths as a secular national holiday.

The Iranian Cultural Society on the Hilltop also celebrates Nowruz with fellow Hoyas every year. This year, their celebration is in Copley Lounge on Saturday at 7 p.m. ICS’s Nowruz show this year will include narratives of Nowruz variations as experienced in other cultures. Persian music and Iranian dances will also entertain guests before dinner and dessert. Last but not least, we will dance the night away to Iranian and American pop music with a live DJ. We hope to see you there. Happy spring!

— Iranian Cultural Society

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