Soroush Razmi

Rebirth of a collective remembrance

March 23, 2017

Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the beginning of spring and the renewal of nature.

This time of the year offers the opportunity for the Persians to reflect on the values of peace and solidarity, generosity, compassion and charity. The festival, which has been marked for thousands of years and continues to be observed by Persian and Central Asian communities around the world, has its roots in the Zoroastrian traditions that were dominant in ancient Persia (largely modern-day Iran). In this ancient celebration, there are many symbols and rituals which have some resemblances to the Christmas and perhaps other cultures.


There are many similar festive elements in Nowruz and Christmas, such as the color of red in decorative things, the mythical and fictional figure for annunciating the new year (Hajji Firuz & Santa Claus) and setting a decorative table or tree (“Haft Seen” Table & Christmas Tree). Although it should be noted that Nowruz is celebrated in the spring instead of the dead of winter.


One the most important elements of Nowruz is the tabletop arrangement of seven symbolic items. According to Persian tradition, there are seven things for Iranians symbolizing seven holy immortals (rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty) that are indispensable from the “Haft Seen” table during the Nowruz holiday. These seven things on the Nowruz holiday table include: apple, green grass, vinegar, Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), coin, and garlic. Other items like candles (enlightenment), mirror (cleanness and honesty), goldfish (life) and decorated eggs (family) and so on might appear on the table, indicating people’s wishes towards the New Year. Similarly, the Christmas tree contain red ornaments. The first decorated Christmas tree were embellished with apples, white candy canes and pastries in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers.


Another similar element between these two cultures is New Year Dinner or Lunch. Traditionally Iranians family would cook the New Year’s Day meal called Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with fresh green herbs served with smoked and fried fish. Similarly, The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood. It is a meal that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It should be noted that Seven is the most repeated number in the Bible and appears over 700 times. The element of fish (ichthys) which almost in all cultures symbolizes abundance and faith as observed in the Biblical story of fishes and loaves. In ancient Iran, fish symbol on vases associated with blessing. Fish in Christianity is the symbol of salvation and the Apostles sometimes remembered as Fishers of Men.


These affinities between the two cultures and other compatibilities among different rituals indicate how profound and identical is the human perception and understanding. According to Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung (1875-1961), the collective unconscious within us which shared among beings of the same species leads to archetypes, universal primordial images and ideas. The existence of Nowruz to the present time is presumably the source of man's belief in reincarnations and in memories of "previous experiences". Nowruz is a keepsake of ancient days and conjoin the hearts of millions of people who want to take part in a unique ceremony marking not only the outset of New Year, but the end of the perturbed winter.

Soroush Razmi is Head of Foreign Students Affairs Bureau, Islamic Azad University

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