Parsis welcome spring with music, delicious meals, and fire festivities as they celebrate Nowruz on Thursday.
The 3,000-year-old festival marks the first day of the year in the Iranian calendar.
“Nauru is like our Eid,” said Cyrus Karanjia, a Parsi living in Karachi. “We wake up early clean our house and then offer prayers at the fire temple”. The animal for this year is a white pig, he said.
The event is celebrated in more than 17 countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, each in their own way.
It is also known as Novruz, Nowruz, Nooruz, Naruz, Nauruz or Nevruz and has been inscribed in the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in India.
The festivities aren’t limited to Parsis. Ismailis and some sects of Shia community celebrate it too. It marks the birth of Imam Ali (AS) for them.
“Nowruz signifies the beginning of new life, new beginnings and new year,” said Hussain, who is an Ismaili Muslim.
— Asieh Namdar (@asiehnamdar) March 17, 2019
Ismailis celebrate Nowruz on March 21 every year.
Beenish Ahad, a Shia Muslim, said that they celebrate Nowruz as written in a guide book, Imamia Jantri.
“The guide book has written the time, day and date of all the religious festivals every year to help the devotees,” she explained.
Religious scholars from Iran calculate the movement of the stars and the moon, and then announce the theme of the year, the time and the date of celebrations in the guide book, she said.
The guide book says that celebrations this year will take place on a specific time, which was 2:54am on Thursday. And the colour is yellow.
“According to the colour of the year everything starting from food to drinks and sweet will be prepared according to it and a table will be set for the offering,” said Ahad while talking to SAMAA digital.
Family, fun, frolic
Nowruz celebrations are no ordinary affair.
“The entire family sits together and eats Dhandal [a lentil dish] and rice,” said Karanjia. He explained that they eat daal and rice as there are first crops of the season in Iran.
“We go for special prayers together. People usually pray for their families, health and prosperity,” he added.
People greet each other and exchange gifts just like Muslims do on Eid. Now, most people don’t cook as they visit their relatives.
Every house also sets a ‘haft sin’ tables contain seven foods beginning with letter ‘S’. The table can have Sabzeh (which can be made from wheat, barley, mung bean or lentils), Samau (a sweet pudding from wheat), Senjed which is Persian olive, Serke which is vinegar, and Sib which is an apple.
The celebrations are a bit different among Ismailis.
“We celebrate Nowruz by distributing wheat grains, misri [rock sugar] and painted boiled eggs among each other,” said Hussain.
“The boiled egg represents life, misri represents sweetness and happiness, while wheat represents prosperity,” he explained. “Each of these good symbolises blessings of abundance and sustenance.”
He explained that the goods are distributed during the morning prayers which start at 5:30am at jamatkhanas.