Naw-Ruz – The Baha’i and Zoroastrian New Year
Naw-Ruz, also spelled Nowruz as well as other variants, is an ancient Persian holiday celebrating the new year. It is one of only two festivals mentioned by Zoroaster in the Avesta, the only holy Zoroastrian scriptures written by Zoroaster himself. It is celebrated as a holy day by two religions: Zoroastrianism and the Baha’i Faith. In addition, other Iranians (Persians) also commonly celebrate it as a secular holiday.
SOLAR SIGNIFICANCE AND MESSAGES OF RENEWAL
Naw-Ruz occurs on the spring equinox or on March 21, the approximate date of the equinox. At its most basic, it is a celebration of renewal and the coming spring, which is common for festivals at this time of year. Some believe that their actions on Naw-Ruz will affect the rest of the coming year. Baha’is, in particular, can see it as a time of spiritual renewal, because Naw-Ruz marks the end of a 19-day fast meant to focus believers on spiritual development. Finally, it commonly a time for “spring cleaning,” clearing the home of old and unneeded items to make room for new things.
COMMON FORMS OF CELEBRATION – THE FEAST
Naw-Ruz is a time of reaffirming and strengthening ties to friends and family. It is a popular time for sending out cards to associates, for example. It is also a time for gatherings, visiting each other’s homes and sitting down in large groups for a communal meal.
Baha’ullah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, specifically names Naw-Ruz as a feast day, a celebration of the end of the nineteen-day fast.
The haft-sin (or the “Seven S’s”) is a deeply ingrained portion of Iranian Naw-Ruz celebrations. It is a table bearing seven traditional items starting with the letter “S”.
Read more: The Haft-Sin
The Baha’i have few rules dictating the celebration of Naw-Ruz. It is one of nine holidays on which work and school are to be suspended.
The Bab considered Naw-Ruz to be the Day of God and associated it with a future prophet he called “He Whom God Shall Make Manifest,” whom Baha’is associated with Baha’ullah. The coming of a new Manifestation of God is also an event of renewal, as God abrogates the old religious laws and sets in place new ones for the coming time.
The Zoroastrians in India and Pakistan, known as Parsis, commonly follow a separate calendar from that of Iranian Zoroastrians. According to the Parsi calendar, the date of Naw-Ruz regresses by a day every few years. In 2008, it occurred on August 20.
Parsi celebrations tend to lack the distinct Iranian practices, such as the haft-sin, although they may still prepare a table or tray of symbolic items such as incense, rosewater, an image of Zoroaster, rice, sugar, flowers, and candles.
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