Believe in the Spring!

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Believe in the Spring!
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Image by Hamed Saber
Less than 12 hours to our Persian new year….
Wish you all my friends a new year full of beauty and peace, and specially a year without war for my dear homeland – IRAN.

باز كن پنجره ها را كه نسيم
روز ميلاد اقاقي ها را
جشن ميگيرد
و بهار
روي هر شاخه كنار هر برگ
شمع روشن كرده است
همه چلچله ها برگشتند
و طراوت را فرياد زدند
كوچه يكپارچه آواز شده است
و درخت گيلاس
هديه جشن اقاقي ها را
گل به دامن كرده ست

باز كن پنجره ها را اي دوست

هيچ يادت هست
كه زمين را عطشي وحشي سوخت
برگ ها پژمردند
تشنگي با جگر خاك چه كرد
هيچ يادت هست
توي تاريكي شب هاي بلند
سيلي سرما با تاك چه كرد
با سرو سينه گلهاي سپيد
نيمه شب باد غضبناك چه كرد
هيچ يادت هست

حاليا معجزه باران را باور كن
و سخاوت را در چشم چمنزار ببين
و محبت را در روح نسيم
كه در اين كوچه تنگ
با همين دست تهي
روز ميلاد اقاقي ها را
جشن ميگيرد

خاك جان يافته است
تو چرا سنگ شدي
تو چرا اينهمه دلتنگ شدی

باز كن پنجره ها را
و بهاران را
باور كن
(فريدون مشيری)

For those who can’t read Persian, this is a poem named "Believe in the Spring" by Fereidoun Moshiri, and here is its English translation.You can also listen to the poem there!
(The translation was copyrighted, so I didn’t copy it here!)

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Norouz (Persian: نوروز , various local pronunciations and spellings) is the traditional Iranian new year holiday in Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania,
Georgia
, various countries of Central Asia such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as among the Iranian peoples in Pakistan,Turkey, and everywhere else.
As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday, it is also a holy day for adherents of Sufism as well as Bahá’í Faith. In Iran it is also referred to as an Eid festival, although it is not an Islamic feast. Shia Nizari Ismaili muslims, who trace their origins to Iran, celebrate the festival under the name Navroz. In their religious protocol, Navroz is officially recognized as an Eid, as with Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, although it involves a distinct set of religious ceremonies.
Norouz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Iranian year as well as the beginning of the Bahá’í year. It is celebrated by some communities on March 21st and by others on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (start of spring), which may occur on March 20th, 21st or 22nd.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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History and Tradition
Tradition takes Norooz as far back as 15,000 years–before the last ice age. King Jamshid (Yima or Yama of the Indo-Iranian lore) symbolizes the transition of the Indo-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry and a more settled life in human history. Seasons played a vital part then. Everything depended on the four seasons. After a sever winter, the beginning of spring was a great occasion with mother nature rising up in a green robe of colorful flowers and the cattle delivering their young. It was the dawn of abundance. Jamshid is said to be the person who introduced Norooz celebrations.

Avestan and later scriptures show that Zarathushtra improved, as early as 1725 BCE., the old Indo-Iranian calendar. The prevailing calendar was luni-solar. The lunar year is of 354 days. An intercalation of one month after every thirty months kept the calendar almost in line with the seasons. Zarathushtra, the Founder of the Good Religion, himself an astronomer, founded an observatory and he reformed the calendar by introducing an eleven-day intercalary period to make it into a luni-solar year of 365 days, 5 hours and a fraction. Later the year was made solely a solar year with each month of thirty days. An intercalation of five days was, and a further addition of one day every four years, was introduced to make the year 365 days, 5 hours, and a fraction. Still later, the calendar was
further corrected to be a purely solar year of 365 days 5 hr 48 min 45.5 sec. The year began precisely with the vernal equinox every time and therefore, there was no particular need of adding one day every four years and there was no need of a leap year. This was [and still is] the best and most correct calendar produced that far.

Some 12 centuries later, in 487 B.C.E., Darius the Great of the Achaemenian dynasty celebrated the Norooz at his newly built Persepolis in Iran. A recent research shows that it was a very special occasion. On that day, the first rays of the rising sun fell on the observatory in the great hall of audience at 06-30 a.m., an event which repeats itself once every 1400-1 years. It also happened to coincide with the Babylonian and Jewish new years. It was, therefore, a highly auspicious occasion for the ancient peoples. The Persepolis was the place, the Achaemenian king received, on Norooz, his peoples from all over the vast empire. The walls of the great royal palace depict the scenes of the celebrations.

We know the Iranian under the Parthian dynasty celebrated the occasion but we do not know the details. It should have, more or less, followed the Achaemenian pattern. During the Sasanian time, preparations began at least 25 days before Norooz. Twelve pillars of mud-bricks, each dedicated to one month of the year, were erected in the royal court. Various vegetable seeds–wheat, barley, lentils, beans, and others–were sown on top of the pillars. They grew into luxurious greens by the New Year Day. The great king held his public audience and the High Priest of the empire was the first to greet him. Government officials followed next. Each person offered a gift and received a present. The audience lasted for five days, each day for the people of a certain profession. Then on the sixth day,
called the Greater Norooz, the king held his special audience. He received members of the Royal family and courtiers. Also a general amnesty was declared for convicts of minor crimes. The pillars were removed on the 16th day and the festival came to a close. The occasion was celebrated, on a lower level, by all peoples throughout the empire.

Since then, the peoples of the Iranian culture, whether Zartoshtis, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha’is, or others, have celebrated Norooz precisely at the time of vernal equinox, the first day of the first month, on about March 21.

(Source: The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies)

Extensive records on the celebration of Norouz appear following the accession of Ardashir I of Persia, the founder of the Sassanid dynasty (224-651 AD). Under the Sassanid emperors, Norouz was celebrated as the most important day of the year. Most royal traditions of Norouz such as royal audiences with the public, cash gifts, and the pardoning of prisoners, were established during the Sassanian era and they persisted unchanged until modern times.
Norouz, along with Sadeh (that is celebrated in mid-winter), survived in society following the introduction of Islam in 650 AD. Other celebrations such Gahanbar and Mehragan were eventually side-lined or were only followed by the Zoroastrians, who carried them as far as Turkey. Norouz, however, was most honored even by the early founders of Islam. There are records of the Four Great Caliphs
presiding over Norouz celebrations, and it was adopted as the main royal holiday during the Abbasid period.
Following the demise of the Caliphate and the subsequent re-emergence of Persian dynasties such as the Samanids and Buyids, Norouz was elevated to an even more important event. The Buyids revived the ancient traditions of Sasanian times and restored many smaller celebrations that had been eliminated by the Caliphate. Even the Turkish and Mongol invaders did not attempt to abolish Norouz in favor of any other celebration. Thus, Norouz remained
as the main celebration in the Persian lands by both the officials and the people.
Omar Khayyam in his Norouznama (letter of Nowrouz) has written a vivid description of the celebration in ancient Persian:

“ From the era of Keykhosrow till the days of Yazdegard, last of the pre-Islamic kings of Persia, the royal custom was thus: on the first day of the New Year, Nau Ruz, the King’s first visitor was the High Priest of the Zoroastrians, who brought with him as gifts a golden goblet full of wine, a ring, some gold coins, a fistful of green sprigs of wheat, a sword, a bow and a handsome slave. In the language of Persia he would then glorify God and praise the monarch.. This was the address of the High Priest to the king : "O Majesty, on this feast of the Equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the Faith of the Ancient ones; may Surush, the Angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in
praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestes and the exercise of justice and righteousness. May thy soul flourish; may thy youth be as the new-grown grain; may thy horse be puissant, victorious; thy sword bright and deadly against foes; thy hawk swift against its prey; thy every act straight as the arrow’s shaft. Go forth from thy rich throne, conquer new lands. Honor the craftsman and the sage in equal degree; disdain the acquisition of wealth. May thy house prosper and thy life be long!"

(Source: Wikipedia)
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Today

Today, the ceremony has been simplified. Every house gets a thorough cleaning almost a month before. Wheat, barley, lentils, and other vegetables seeds are soaked to grow on china plates and round earthenware vessels some ten days in advance, so that the sprouts are three to four inches in height by Norooz. A table is laid. It has a copy of the sacred book (the Gathas for Zarathushtrians), picture of Zarathushtra (again for Zarathushtrians), a mirror, candles, incense burner, bowl of water with live gold fish, the plates and vessels with green sprouts, flowers, fruits, coins, bread, sugar cone, various grains, fresh vegetables, colorfully painted boiled eggs like the “Easter eggs,” and above all, seven articles with their names beginning in Persian with the letter s or sh. The usual
things with s are vinegar, sumac, garlic, samanu (consistency of germinating wheat), apple, senjed (sorb?), and herbs. Those with sh include wine, sugar, syrup, honey, candy, milk, and rice-pudding. Here in North America, these may be substituted with English words that would alliterate, rhyme, or make mouths water. The seven articles are prominently exhibited in small bowls or plates on the table. The whole table, beautifully laid, symbolizes the Message and the Messenger, light, reflection, warmth, life, love, joy, production, prosperity, and nature. It is, in fact, a very elaborate thanksgiving table for all the good beautifully bestowed by God.

Family members, all dressed in their best, sit around the table and eagerly await the announcement of the exact time of vernal equinox over radio or television. The head of the family recites the Norooz prayers, and after the time is announced, each member kisses the other and wishes a Happy Norooz. Elders give gifts to younger members. Next the rounds of visits to neighbors, relatives, and friends begin. Each visit is reciprocated. Zarathushtra’s Birthday and Norooz festival are celebrated by Zartoshtis at social centers on about 6 Farvardin (26 March). Singing and dancing is, more or less for the first, a daily routine. The festivity continues for 12 days, and on the 13th morning, the mass picnic to countryside begins. It is called sizdeh-be-dar, meaning “thirteen-in-the-outdoors.”
Cities and villages turn into ghost towns with almost all the i[nhabitants gone to enjoy the day in woods and mountains along stream and riversides. People sing, dance, and make merry. Girls of marriageable age tie wild grass tops into knots and make a wish that the following Norooz may find them married and carrying their bonny babies.

(Source: The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies)

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Added to flickr Explore (interestingness) page of 20 March 2007.

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