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Navroz in Zoroastrian Empires and beyond
March 22, 2015, 1:54 pm

On 21 March, Zoroastrians celebrate their New Year, Jamshed Navroz, welcoming the spring season on the first day of the first month of the Zoroastrian calendar. They also commemorate the day to honor the legendary king of Persia, Jamshed, who introduced the solar calculation that determined the date when the sun would mark the beginning of the year.

Though the festival was initially celebrated by the Iranian people in Greater Iran, Caucasus and Central Asia, it is now observed mainly in other parts of the world. Now, registered on the UNESCO’s ‘List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, Jamshed Navroz is declared a public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir and Kyrgyzstan.

It is also celebrated in the Indian Subcontinent, Turkey, South-Asia, Northwestern China and the Crimea, and by some ethnic groups in Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia.

Here is a list of some places where Nowroz, is celebrated with fervor:


The most important holiday in Iran, the festival's preparations begin in the month Esfand, the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar.

The Santa of Parsis: Hajji Firuz or, Khwaja Piruz or, Baba Nowroz (Father or Grandfather of the New Year), is the traditional herald of Nowruz, who oversees celebrations for the New Year, perhaps as a remnant of the ancient Zoroastrian fire-keeper. His face is painted black (black is an ancient Persian symbol of good luck) and wears a red costume. Then he sings and dances through the streets with tambourines and trumpets spreading good cheer and heralds the coming of the New Year.

Food First: The part of the celebration that preoccupies many of those who celebrate Nowroz is what goes on the table. The most important thing is sumalyak, a sweet dish made especially for Nowroz  and the ‘haft-sin’, an ancient tradition of setting the table with seven items beginning with the letter "sin" in the Persian alphabet. In Iran, where the tradition of haft-sin is widespread, goldfish merchants prepare for a peak in sales around Nowroz  every year.


What is little known is that Afghans share not only an ancient culture with Iranians, but also the language of Farsi. Nowroz, also known as Farmer's Day in Afghanistan, is celebrated widely, in Afghanistan, as an observance that usually last two weeks. Among various traditions and customs, the most important ones are:

Guli Surkh festival, which literally means 'Red Flower Festival' (referring to red Tulip flowers) is the principal festival for Nowroz.  Celebrated during the first 40 days of the year, when the Tulip flowers grow in the green plains and over the hills surrounding the city, people from all over the country travel to Mazari Sharif to attend the Nawroz festivals.

Various activities and customs are performed during the Guli Surkh festival, including the flag raising ceremony by high-ranking government officials, Jahenda Bala event, and national sport of Afghanistan Buzkashi games (literally "goat dragging" in Persian.)    

Sightseeing to Cercis fields: The citizens of Kabul go to Istalif, Charikar, or other green places around where the Cercis flowers grow. They go for picnic with their families during the first 2 weeks of New Year.

Jashn-e Dehqān: Jashn-e Dehqan means The Festival of Farmers. It is celebrated in the first day of year, in which the farmers walk in the cities as a sign of encouragement for the agricultural productions. In recent years, this activity is being performed only in Kabul and other major cities, in which the mayor and other high governmental personalities participate for watching and observing.

Kampirak: Like 'Haji Nowruz' in Iran, Kampirak is an old bearded man wearing colorful clothes with a long hat and rosary who symbolizes beneficence and the power of nature over the forces of winter. He and his retinue pass village by village distributing gathered charities among people and do his shows like reciting poems. The tradition is observed in central provinces specially Bamyan and Daykundi.


Usually preparation for Novruz begins a month prior to the festival in Azerbaijan. Each Tuesday of the 4 weeks are devoted to one of the four elements – water, fire, earth and wind – and celebrated.

Fire-jumping: As a tribute to ancient fire-worshiping every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday kids jump over small bonfires and candles are lit. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and tended.

The luck of seven: The decoration of the festive table is khoncha, a big silver or copper tray in the centre and candles and dyed eggs by the number of family members around it. The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.

On the last Tuesday prior to Novruz, according to old traditions children slip around to their neighbors' homes and apartments, knock at their doors, and leave their caps or little basket on the thresholds all the while hiding nearby waiting for candies, pastries and nuts.

South Turkey

The word 'Newroz' is Kurdish for 'Nowruz'. The Kurds celebrate this feast between 18 till 21 March. It is one of the few ‘people's celebrations’ that has survived and predates all the major religious festivals. In recent years the Newroz celebration gathers around one million participants in Diyarbakir, the biggest city of the Kurdish dominated Southeastern Turkey.

The holiday is considered by Kurds to be the single most important holiday of every year. With this festival Kurds gather into fairgrounds mostly outside cities to welcome spring by lighting fire and dancing around it.

Churshama Kulla is the tradition where people jump over the fire. It is celebrated as a national emblem in Kurdistan.

Caption: In this Picture Kurds in Istanbul celebrate Newroz through coming together and showing their cultural unity.

Pakistan and India

Nowruz is celebrated by Parsis in Pakistan and India, who celebrate the spring break as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year's Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti '(day) of penitence’. Jamshed Navroz celebrations can be prominently noticed in western part of India where the Parsi community is more prevalent.

Auspicious symbols: Parsi residences are adorned  with garlands of roses and jasmines, symbolic stars, butterflies, birds and fishes, and Parsees wear gold and silver kustis and caps, during this time of the year. 

Agiary or Fire Temple: Special thanksgiving prayers, known as Jashan, are held and sandalwood is offered to the Holy Fire at the Agiary or Fire Temple.

The luck of Seven: The number seven, which symbolizes the seven elements of life, namely, fire, earth, water, air, plants, animals and humans, has been regarded magical and significant for the Zoroastrians. The traditional table setting of Jamshed Navroz includes seven specific items beginning with the letter ‘S’, known as 'Haft Sin', that signify life, health, wealth, abundance, love, patience and purity.

The Kashmiris in India celebrate Navroz as Navreh, on a date which usually falls between mid-March and mid-April.

Thal Bharun, meaning 'filling the platter', is a major Navreh tradition similar to the Iranian Haft Sin. The tray or platter generally include wheat or rice –  a sweet pudding made from milk and cereal, fruits, walnuts, rosewater, a coin (sikkeh), a pen, an ink-holder, a mirror (for introspection, purity of thought and honesty), and a lit diya or clay lamp (representing the Light of the Truth).

Former Soviet Republics

The ancient festival, which is called Navruz in Russian and has more than a dozen different similar spellings including Nowruz and Navroz, across the former Soviet Republics will see thousands of people donning their best clothes and welcoming spring with dance, music, ethnic food and football at Navruz celebrations. Cultural performances, culinary delights and colorful handicrafts will fill the annual event.

In Soviet times, Navruz was celebrated in secret as it was considered religious and nationalistic by the authorities. It was prohibited as an Islamic holiday but has now become reanimated across the Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.


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