Sunday, March 20, 2011

Our New Year (the first day of Spring)




When I was a little girl, I always felt so lucky to get to celebrate one extra holiday a year. Every March, on the first day of Spring, we would celebrate our Persian New Year. Today is the first day of the year in our calendar, and a day to celebrate Nowruz. It is the first day of Spring, and from the time I was young, I always wondered why my American friends celebrated the first day of the year on a cold, dark day in January.

"Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran. Preparations for Nowruz begin in the month Esfand, the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar.

Spring cleaning, or Khouneh Tekouni (literally means 'shaking the house') or 'complete cleaning of the house' is commonly performed before Nowruz. Persians start preparing for the Nowruz with a major spring-cleaning of their houses, the purchase of new clothes to wear for the new year and the purchase of flowers.

In association with the "rebirth of nature", extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed by almost every household in Iran. This is also extended to personal attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. On the New Year's Day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors."


This week my Mom and Dad came over to help do the deep cleaning of our house. These days I'm not good of much of anything but doing dishes and vacuuming, and getting down on my hands and knees to scrub is out of the question. I started my cleaning a few weeks ago, emptying closets and getting rid of extra clutter around the house before I knew I would be too tired, and entirely too pregnant to do anything. We had our carpets cleaned Monday, and on Thursday they came over and my Mom scrubbed every corner of our house spotless, while my Dad planted a few new shrubs in the yard.

Everything feels light, new, and ready for the start of new life. Vases around the house are filled with blooms and flowers, the windows are all open, and there is an overall sense of readiness and peace around our house.

We celebrated Nowruz a day early, yesterday. Here are the traditions we follow on the first day of the year.



Nowruz always begins with a few people (usually Grandpa) napping while my Mom runs around in the kitchen, finishing the last touches on dinner. Don't worry if for a minute you thought he was dead in this picture - I had to check and make sure he was breathing before I was myself convinced that he was still alive, and ready for his 88th birthday, tomorrow.



The house is always filled with the smell of all the wonderful food being cooked. Especially the dried herbs from my Mom's garden every past Summer. I want to bottle up this smell.



The coffee table is set and prepared with the Hafstin. All the pastries carefully covered until it's time to eat.

"Haftseen (Persian: "Haftseen/Haftsā") or the seven 'S's is a traditional table setting of Nowruz, the traditional Iranian spring celebration. Today the haft seen table includes seven specific items, all starting with the seen (Sā) in the Persian alphabet. Traditionally, families attempt to set the most aesthetically appealing Haft Sîn table they can as an expression of traditional, spiritual, and social value, for visitors during Nowruz visitations. The Haft Seen items are:



1. Sabzeh - wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
2. Samanu - sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
3. Senjed - dried oleaster fruit - symbolizing love
4. Sir - garlic - symbolizing medicine
5. Sib - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
6. Somāq - sumac fruit - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
7. Serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing old-age and patience





The house is also filled with the smell of Sonbol (Hyacinth flowers). They remind me so much of Spring, and every year after the Hafstin comes down, my Mom plants the bulbs in her yard. On Nowruz, outside the window the Sonbols from past years bloom outside while the new ones wait on the table for their time to be planted.



We sit around for a couple hours visiting and waiting for the food to be ready. By this time we're usually starving and ready to pick at everything on the table, which is probably why my Mom keeps everything covered up. So I just wander around to take photos.









When it's finally time to eat, Grandpa is always the first to the table. We eat the traditional foods, like Sabzi Polo, fish, and Maast-o-khiar, a cold yogurt with cucumbers and herbs.



And we eat. A lot. It's like Thanksgiving for Persians, and your plate has to be filled over and over until you can barely breathe.

With our bellies full, we all squeeze onto the couch to try and get a photo together. With a handful of adults, two people in their 80's, a baby, and a couple dogs around, this always turns into a huge ordeal, and we hardly ever get a photo that every one looks good in. They usually end up looking like this:



With a little (and very little) time to make room in our bellies, the Haftsin is uncovered and it's time to snack on dried fruit, lavash bread and paneer cheese with cucumbers, and the traditional Persian sweets.



My Mom spends days preparing them all from scratch.



We sip our tea and eat plates full of them, almost dying from the overload of sweetness.

It is one of my favorite days of the year. A time to be with family, eat all my favorite foods, and make big plans for the new year ahead.


Happy New year, friends. Spring is here, and it's time to think about all the big hopes and dreams we want to set for ourselves, this year.


Every year I plan on starting a 365 project - taking one photo a day. I never feel very inspired or moved to start this on January 1st, when the world seems cold and dead. So this year, I decided I would start this project for myself on our new year.



Every day, a brand new day and opportunity to find something beautiful in the world. This morning, it was the new shrub my Dad planted for me this week.
I can't wait to put together an album of 365 photos next Spring, to see where this year will take me.

41 comments:

Sini said...

Happy New Year Aura! Your family is amazing, love the culture and traditions. I am even more keen on this, since I moved to south France. With the influences from Morocco and Algeria, it's a lovely mix of things and people here. Beautiful pictures, your idea "a brand new day" is great :)

Stephanie said...

I absolutely adore you and your family. So beautiful, so loving, so connected. I love all of the wonderful traditions that are kept alive and celebrated with passion! Adopt me, please? :) But, really, it's inspiring to see a family so full of love and still so in touch with where their roots are and what keeps those roots alive. So lovely.

Kathleen said...

my dad is Assyrian (Assyrians still live in modern day Iran) and my mom is Armenian and it never ceases to amaze me how blended middle eastern cultures are! We eat MANY of the same things but just have different names for them. Happy New Year Aura!

Kelly @ Dare to be Domestic said...

Happy New Year and Happy Spring - as well as happiest time of the year for you. I do think that it's much more fitting to celebrate the new year when the earth awakens from her nap on the first day of spring! This food all looks amazing and what a wonderful way to celebrate! ox

Tenley Clark said...

I can't tell you fun and interesting that was to read. My bun in the oven is half-Persian and I want to make sure I know as much about his culture as I can. Plus now I can impress my soon to be mother-in-law about my knowledge of Nowruz! Thanks for the beautiful post and images!

Nikole Taylor said...

Aura, this is absolutely lovely. I love the idea of the new year in spring, when everything is blooming and warm. That makes perfect sense! Your photos are beautiful and I cannot wait to see your garden this year and of course... your little bird!

All the best!
~Nikole

lizzie bee said...

hi aura! i recently found your blog and have been enjoying it so. i loved reading about your new year traditions, thanks for sharing!

raichel said...

Aura, your grandparents are just lovely.
Beautiful post!

Anonymous said...

dear aura, thank you for such inspiring post. i love reading about your family and traditions and how you guys keep things alive.
i also have a photography question. i know you like to work a lot with natural sunlight, but it also can be a bit tricky. i've been reading lots of forums to gain knowledge, but i thought i'd come to you and ask. what are the best ways to shoot people in natural light? whenever i am outdoors with lots of sun, in my photos i feel i look slightly washed out and all of my makeup has disappeared. no details. your photos are never this way :). i have been playing with my exposure settings kinda to no avail. what are some tips? do you typically use flash? etc
i understand if you cant answer this right away :) but i'd love to hear some of your insight. i'm really trying everyday to gain control of this camera(eventhough it is canon p&s).
thank you so much and i look forward to reading more about your journey.

Hannah said...

I love Spring, and it just makes so much sense to me for this to be the New Year. Your family and traditions are so beautiful- thank you as always for capturing and sharing them :)

Nelly said...

Happy New Year to you, Aura! I always look forward to this post, every year :)

Love you!

toi said...

What an inspiring post indeed. Beautiful tradition. Thanks for sharing. I love the crafty vegetable designs.

Candy said...

Happy New Year to you and yours Aura!

Gaby said...

Happy New Year Aura! Sounds like a wonderful tradition. I look forward to seeing some of your 365 project, it's such a great idea. xx

A. said...

Such beautiful traditions! My mouth is watering from those glorious food pictures.

It was nice to see grandpa on your blog - I feel like he's been MIA as of late. Happy New Year! : )

17 Perth said...

Happy new year. This is truly a wonderful occasion. Looks beautiful and the food looks divine too. Spring might be my favorite time of year and this makes me look forward to it even more. : )

Corey said...

Hello Aura! You have to tell me how you did the fishbowl thingy! Wonderful! xoxo C

Monique said...

Happy Persian New Year Aura. The food looks amazing and your photos are lovely as usual. Good luck with your 365 project. Spring is certainly a great time to start.

MelissaOklahoma said...

What a great read! I love learning about different cultures and their traditions. Plus it's so nice to see how your family gets together to celebrate and love on each other.

The spread of food your mom prepares looks absolutely delicious!

And I've always wanted to start the 365 photo project too! I bet your collection will turn out beautiful.

Annie Kennedy said...

Looks like such a happy day for you! :) So glad you have spring now to enjoy, while it's my turn to enjoy the cold! :) Your project 365 sounds fun, I can't wait to see photos of your little one! :)

Holly said...

happy new year to you and your family! all the treats and food look delicious, I hope you had left overs!

O'Melly said...

Aw, look at you and your belly! Fabulous!

I really wish I had a holiday to celebrate right about now! I just got about another foot of snow dumped on me! :(

Obaitori Spiritual Mothering said...

Wishing you a year filled with joy, love, peace & happiness. Looking at your first photo, it looks like a magical start to a magnificent new year. Thank you. Katie x

Laura Nelson said...

You have such a beautiful family! I love all the traditions and love :)
xoxo

Marfio said...

Happy New Year! It's funny how similar traditions are all around the world. The preparations for Chinese New Year is almost exactly the same: the cleaning, the new clothes, the visiting of relatives and family in order of age. Spring bulbs also feature in our celebrations although the food is somewhat different!

I am amazed at your mom's cooking talents and I love her dried herbs with the worn labels written in Persian.

Thank you for sharing!

mama-T said...

what lovely photos!
happy new year to you too!

Lady Jennie said...

As always this post was so worth reading. It was a fresh breath of spring for me and gave me some good ideas.

Bron said...

This all looks so delicious and your photos have really captured the celebration...have you read Digging to America? Paints a scene that reminds me of your lovely day...

Johanna said...

Happy New Year! The Persian New Year sounds so awesome. I could totally get behind these traditions, and I love that spring cleaning is a part of the celebration. I am a sucker for anything that symbolizes a fresh start.

The two photos of dried fruits and sweets? What are they? I'd like to search for recipes. It all looks delicious.

astr!d said...

oh my gosh girl, this was so pretty!! thanks for sharing!

~3iNnA~ said...

Happy New Year Aura.

We have two New Years also. It is changes every year. This year it was on Feb 3. We have similar custom...new set of clothes, spring cleaning, flowers, and lots of food. Thank you soooooo much for sharing your tradition. I always enjoy reading other customs/tradition of their holidays.

The yogi said...

Hi:) My name is halima and I'm celebrating Nowruz today too:) I'm a bahai though. Happy nowruz. it is a wonderful time of year for me, and i'm sure you.
There are tons of persian bahais and I had the opportunity of eating lots of tadek and other yummy persian things yesterday. I love persian food so much!
Have a splendid day:)

DJ said...

Happy New Year! What a lovely way to celebrate the New Year, rather than waking up hungover and unimpressed on January 1st like so many are.

For the Jewish New Year, in the fall, we eat apples and honey for a sweet new year but focus more on looking back and figuring out where we went wrong -- I much more prefer the idea of looking forward to a fresh start, as you do. :)

I have a lot of nicknames, my favorite is Megs. said...

I used to work for a Persian couple at their restaraunt and OH! this post makes my mouth water for their food. When I go back to St. Louis in May, I will definitely be headed to their restaraunt.

Lis said...

Happy New Year! Happy Spring!

Dreamy Melrose said...

It' s very interesting to read something new about traditions and culture!I am very interested to discover something that I don't know previously :) So....Happy new year!!!It's very nice the last photo with your family and your baby inside you :) In the future you will look at that photo and you will think "oh...what a beautiful time" and you will have a good time :)

Sandra said...

Happy New Year Aura! I love reading your blog and your pictures as well. Can't wait to hear the news of when your little baby arrives. You will LOVE being a mother!

Sandra

Anna said...

Wow! I loved this post. The food looks so good. Thank you for sharing your family traditions.

Connie said...

you really know how to make an awesome gif! (haha random compliment) I've seen blogs attempt it and well... you do a really good job. Your blog is such eye candy-just it had to be said (:

Notes from Holly St. said...

Being Armenian, your family and traditions remind me so much of mine. Though we don't celebrate a different New Year, a lot of the foods you eat are usually on our holiday dinner table as well. Thanks for sharing!

Joey Mechelle said...

Salam! Happy New Year! I just love your Haftseen. This was my first year having my own.