About the Vernal Equinox
On the equinox, night and day are exactly the same length (12 hours) all over the world. When the sun crosses the celestial equator, Iranians welcome longer days – aka the start of sunny spring – with festivities.
Iranians are not the only culture in the Northern Hemisphere who prefer spring. Nowruz is celebrated by more than 300 million people worldwide as the beginning of the new year. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia and other regions.
How to Celebrate Persian New Year
Like all good bashes, Nowruz is spread throughout the month of March. Although the new year starts on March 20, Iranians continue the festivities for 13 days after.
Because the equinox symbolizes a fresh start – nature’s rebirth after winter – many Iranians subject their houses to a serious spring cleaning. Families also germinate seeds in a pot; the new green shoots (sabzeh) symbolize rebirth and go on the Haft Sin table: a spread of items starting with “s” that represent the new year. Other Haft Sin symbols include hyacinths, coins, garlic, vinegar, intricately painted eggs and goldfish.
On the New Year’s Day, families dress fancy and start the 12-day celebrations by visiting their family and friends, starting with elders. On the 13th day families leave their homes for an all-day picnic: Sizdah Bidar.
Finding Iranian Culture in Kitsilano
One way to join the cultural festivities is to check out contemporary Iranian cinema like the Academy Award-winning, Iranian film A Separation by writer-director Asghar Farhadi. The film depicts the conflicts and contradictions at the heart of Iranian society using a tale of a couple going through a messy divorce.
A Separation is showing daily at Fifth Avenue Cinemas until March 22.
Last modified: March 20, 2012