Nowrūz is the traditional celebration of the ancient Achaemenid Iranian New Year. Nowrūz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year. Nowrūz is celebrated and observed by Iranian peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.
Nowrūz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in the Indian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.
Originally being a Zoroastrian festival, and the holiest of them all, Nowrūz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin.Since the Achaemenid era the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox.
Number seven has been regarded as magical by Iranians since ancient times and is symbolic of heaven’s highest angels. Along with the seven articles, Muslims place the Holy Qur’an and Zoroastrians put the Avesta in their New Year table to implore God’s blessings.
A jar of water is sometimes added to symbolize purity and freshness, along with bread, a traditional symbol of a sustainer of life. It is usual to see fresh milk, cheese, fruits, dates and coins on the New Year table. Wild olives and apples are symbols of love and pomegranates are fruits venerated by Iranians. Coins are used to symbolize prosperity and spherical sour oranges represent the earth.
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowrūz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Nowrūz is registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (2009).