California Multicultural Society


Celebrating Sizdeh Bedar

Nowrouz (otherwise known as Persian New Year) is a tradition that goes back to the Persian Empire over 3,000 years ago. Today it is celebrated by people from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Albania.

Nowrouz literally translates to “New Day.”

Sizdeh Bedar is a festival tradition celebrated on the thirteenth day after Nowrouz.

Sizdeh Bedar literally translates to “13th Outdoors.” The connotation is that people will spend the 13th day of the new year outdoors on the countryside or at a park with family and friends.

A ritual performed at the end of the picnic day is to throw away the ”sabzeh” (or wheat grass) from the Nowrouz haft seen table. This tradition is rooted in the belief that by going outdoors, a family can take all the bad things out of the house and literally leave it behind to start the new year fresh. It’s the middle eastern form of “spring cleaning” in the spiritual sense. The sabzeh is supposed to have collected all the sickness, pain and ill fate hiding in the path of the family throughout the coming year. Touching someone else’s sabzeh on this thirteenth day or bringing it home is, therefore, considered a bad omen, and may invite other peoples’ pain and hardship on oneself.

From the ancient times, Persians celebrate this day as the culmination of Nowrouz, since it marks the end of the Norouz celebrations.

The first month of the year is Farvardin . The first 12 days of the year are very important, because they symbolize order in the world and in the lives of people. The 13th day marks the beginning of the return to ordinary daily life.

It is customary on this day, for families to pack a picnic and go to a park or the countryside with family, extended family, and friends . It is believed that joy and laughter clean the mind from all evil thoughts, and a picnic is usually a festive, happy event.

In the same way people might describe the “Christmas Spirit” during December or on Christmas Day, Nowrouz inspires people to be their best selves and to put the past behind them. This is especially true on Sizdeh Bedar.

Sizdeh Bedar is also believed to be a special day to ask for rain. In ancient Persia, every day had its own name, and belonged to a different ”yazat” (Zoroastrian deity). The 13th day of month of Farvardin was dedicated to the deity of rain, Tir, which is depicted as a horse. Therefore, anything with a horse is considered appropriate for the holiday.

Sizdeh Bedar is a day for competitive games. This includes backgammon, chess (which has a horse piece), and the game of Polo (a game played with horses) which was invented by Persians.

Another tradition on the 13th, is the knotting of blades of grass by unmarried girls in the hope of finding a companion. The knotting of the grass represents love and the bond of a man and a woman.

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