California Multicultural Society

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Celebrating Persian New Year (Nowruz)

Nowruz (pronounced no-rooz) is a combination of two Persian words. The first word “now” means new and the second word “ruz” means day; together they mean “New Day.” Nowruz is the name for the celebrations that observe the New Year for many Persian and Central Asian communities. The exact beginning of the New Year occurs when the season changes from winter to spring on the vernal equinox, which usually happens on 20 or 21 March each year. The spelling of Nowruz in English can take many forms, including: Noroz, Norouz, Nowruz and Norooz. For this resource we have used the spelling Nowruz.The festivities of Nowruz reflect the renewal of the Earth that occurs with the coming of spring. Activities that celebrate the arrival of Nowruz share many similarities with other spring festivals such as Easter, celebrated by Christians, and the Egyptian holiday called Sham Al-Naseem, which dates back to the time of the Pharaohs.

Nowruz is a festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths and as such can take on additional interpretations through the lens of religion. Nowruz is partly rooted in the religious tradition of Zoroastrianism. Among other ideas, Zoroastrianism emphasizes broad concepts such as the corresponding work of good and evil in the world, and the connection of humans to nature. Zoroastrian practices were dominant for much of the history of ancient Persia (centered in what is now Iran). Today there are a few Zoroastrian communities throughout the world, and the largest are in southern Iran and India.

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