Happy Nawroz - Celebrating the Persian New Year with Anil
On 21st March 2023, we celebrate the Persian New Year with our colleague and friend Anil Qasemi. Anil has kindly taken the time to share some of his happy memories of celebrating this joyous occasion with his family.
The beauty of cultures is an incredible and enthralling thing, a mosaic of traditions, customs, social practices, and ways of life and values that contribute to the diverse, rich history and exciting spirit of humanity.
I feel lucky to celebrate two New Years this year, from fireworks that lit up the sky of London in January... to flower decorations and a special Nawroz dish with my family this week as we celebrate the Persian New Year.
Nawroz is a Persian word “Naw”, meaning new and “Roz”, meaning day. We celebrate Nawroz, the New Year, as the first buds of spring appear. Nawroz is celebrated by different ethnicities and in different countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kurds in Iraq, Turkey and beyond. It usually falls on March 21st, and although countries celebrate differently, as a whole, it is a time of renewal and rebirth and every year at this time people gather together to welcome the spring and embrace the promise of a fresh and positive new beginning.
In Afghanistan, during Nawroz, Afghans from all walks of life come together for celebration wearing new clothes, decorating their homes with flowers, exchanging gifts, flying colourful kites, and enjoying music and traditional dances.
In certain countries, such as Afghanistan, at the heart of the festivities is Haft Mewa (seven fruits), a traditional dish made from seven types of dried fruits and nuts: raisins, pistachio, prunes, dried apricots, walnuts, almonds, and senjid (oleaster tree). Each fruit represents a meaning such as prosperity, happiness and health, and it is shared among guests and family members in the hope of bringing a prosperous year. For dinner, Afghans around the world traditionally prepare fragrant spinach with rice.
In some countries, some families also prepare Samanak (from wheat germ), which is not very easy to prepare as it takes weeks of preparation. Still, it's a lot of fun as women gather together late in the evening until daylight preparing Samanak and singing special traditional songs. It is then distributed to close family members.
Jashn-e-Dehqan is another important component of welcoming the new year. Throughout the country, people come together to honour farmers and agriculture and the year's first harvest. In the last twenty years, as I grew up in Afghanistan, on the second day of the new year, we would watch the country's President live on television ringing the school bell and students returning to a new academic year. We would also watch Buzkashi, a horseback game, our traditional sport, live on national television and big ceremonies in the blue mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif city.
Nawroz brings people together in a spirit of optimism, unity, joy, renewal, fresh beginning and growth. It is a time of jubilation, gratitude, reflection and tribute to the spirit of people. We live in a world that's too often divided, but cultures and traditions, such as Hogmanay, Nawroz, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Day, Holi, or Christmas, serve as unifying forces bringing people together. People of all faiths and none and all nationalities can of course join in. Once again, this year, I have come together with my colleagues at VWA to celebrate the diversity and richness of the human experience.
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