A beautiful Persian celebration of spring and New Year.
Today, Wednesday 20th March is the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. It is also the first day of the Persian New Year festival, Nowrooz, which has been celebrated in many countries throughout the world for over 3,000 years.
The word Nowrooz is a combination of 2 Persian words now (new) and rooz (day) and can be spelled in several slightly different ways so please forgive me if I haven’t used the one you are most used to you.
In Iran the festival lasts for 13 days and marks the first day of the month of Favardin. During Nowrooz holidays people visit the homes of family, friends and neighbours.
So yesterday we all gathered at Laura and Arya’s house where we had been invited to celebrate Nowrooz with a sumptuous feast prepared by Arya.
They had also prepared a Haft-sin table. Traditionally, the Haft-sin table has seven foods on it that all begin with the letter s- sin in the Persian alphabet
- Sabze– wheat or lentil sprouts grown in a dish – cleansing
- Samanu– sweet pudding made from wheatgerm – food
- Senjed– olives – love and affection
- Serke– vinegar – immortality
- Sib– apple – rebirth and good health
- Sir– garlic – spirituality
- Sumac – deep red spice – nature and weather especially rain
As you can see there are other things on the table and these can include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, a hyacinth, poetry (Shahnameh- long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi about the history of the Persian Empire or poems by the Persian poet Hafez). Can you spot any of these on Laura and Arya’s table?
On the thirteenth day of the New Year Iranians go out together to enjoy nature and have picnics outdoors. This is part of the Sizdebedar ceremony and the greenery grown for Haft -Sin is thrown away into running water….as is the goldfish. But I don’t think Bobby, their goldfish would survive being chucked into Meanwood Beck!
As ever Arya produced a fantastic banquet. For starters we had yoghurt and silken aubergine dips with traditional Iranian bread made in a pebbled clay oven – Sangak. Followed by baked Sea Bream, jewelled saffron rice, mixed salad, Laura’s personal favourite- Ghorme Sabzi- a gorgeous lamb stew. Arya also made a spicy lentil and tomato stew for Jamie, the only vegetarian guest.
Many apologies but there are no photos of the first two courses……think I had had too much prosecco and was too excited by the food and company!
For pudding there was a huge variety of Iranian chick pea sweets, Iranian pistachio nougat (Gaz) and to top it all a refreshing tea which Arya had personally brewed from camomile flowers, rose petals, black tea and saffron. As ever I was entranced by the crystallized, jewel like, strings of saffron sugar which were there for us to sweeten our teas to our taste. For once, I did not follow the English practice of adding milk to the tea and can declare it was all the better for that omission!
What a happy Nowrooz celebration!