Thursday, March 19, 2009

RE: NoRooz

NoRooz, “New Day” in Persian, is the traditional new year holiday that was initiated in ancient Iran. Today, it is celebrated by over 300 million people living in greater Iran, roughly the geographical extent of the once mighty Persian Empire.

NoRooz is widely celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It is also celebrated in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and northwestern China in Central Asia; Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia in the Caucuses as well as Crimea; among certain Iranic communities in Pakistan and India as well as Parsis in India; Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Syria as well as Iran; Balkan ethnic groups with Iranian roots in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia; the countries of Bahrain, Qatar and UAE in the Persian Gulf region among the Iranian merchant communities that have made these countries home for centuries; and Alawis of Syria, Lebanon, and the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. The extent of NoRooz today even reaches the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast in Africa, where Iranian merchants from Shiraz and southern Iran migrated during medieval times! Although NoRooz is a secular holiday today, it has religious roots and significance for Zoroastrians (religion of most Iranians before Islam), Bahai’s, and Alawis. Of course, NoRooz is also celebrated by the Iranian diaspora (such as my family) worldwide.

Yet, there is no standardized English spelling for NoRooz. I have seen it spelled at least a dozen different ways! It is celebrated on the day of the astronomic vernal equinox, which usually falls on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. The new year begins with the first day of spring, signifying rebirth of nature as well as the soul. I have always been told that NoRooz is all about humanity’s continual commitment to goodness, love, hope, and prosperity.

Sources: Wikipedia and my own knowledge from many different sources re NoRooz that I have gathered since childhood!

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