Parsis celebrate Navroz, the New Year: A Resonance of History, Culture and Tradition


Navroz or Norooz, which translates to “New Day”, is the Persian New Year. The holiday, which dates back 3,000 years, is rooted in Zoroastrianism – an ancient Iranian religion that influenced later religions including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Navroz is considered one of the largest celebrations of the year associated with the Parsis.

President Pranab Mukherjee has extended his greetings on the eve of Parsi New Year and said that Navroz represents new beginnings. “Greetings and good wishes to all my Parsi brothers and sisters on the joyous occasion of Navroz,” he said in his message.

History of Navroz

Navroz is partly rooted in the religious tradition of Zoroastrianism or even in older tradition of Mitraism, the Mystery Religion practiced in Roman Empire from 1st to 4th centuries AD. Novroz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster, the founder of Zoroastrianism, himself, although there is no clear date of origin. Since the Achaemenid empire (550-330 BC), founded by Cyrus the Great, 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, when the day and night are of equal length for the first time in Spring.


The Celebration

Before Navroz begins, on the last Wednesday before the New Year, Chahar Shanbe Suri is celebrated to cast away the misfortunes of the past year. Participants jump over bonfires with songs and gestures. A popular one, “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man,” translates to, “May my sickly pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”

The phrase symbolizes trading in the color yellow, which represents sickness, to red, which is a sign of health.

A major part of the New Year celebration involves setting the “Haft Seen”, also known as the seven S’s. The traditional table setting includes seven items that all begin with the letter “seen” in the Persian alphabet. These seven things usually are – Seeb (apple), Sabzeh (green grass), Serkeh (vinegar), Samanoo (a meal made out of wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), Sekke (coin), and Seer (garlic).


At the exact moment of the New Year, known as Tahvil, families hug and kiss each other, wishing one another a happy new year. Cash, coins and gold are given as gifts – usually by the adults to the children.

On the 13th day of the Parsi New year, i.e the 13th day from the equinox, known as Sizdah Bedar, it’s typical for families to spend the day outside. Iranians are known to go to parks for a picnic, since it is believed that remaining outdoors will help one avoid misfortune. Another tradition involves throwing green sprouts into rivers and lakes to symbolize the rebirth of plants and the end of the New Year festivities.