Followers of this blog will know that we’ve regularly talked about New Year, and how it’s something of a moveable feast Worldwide.
Nowruz (pronounced no-rooz) is the celebration of the Persian new year and is being celebrated today and tomorrow in many parts of the world.
The first word ‘now’ is the Persian ‘new’ and the second, ‘ruz’ means day. (It can also be spelt Noroz, Norouz and Norooz.) It falls on the first day of the first month on the Persian calendar (Farvardin, which – to make things complex – in three out of four years begins on March 21 and ends on April 20, and in the others on March 19 or 22, ending April 18 or 21).
Nowruz also coincides with the astronomical ‘Vernal Equinox Day’ – the first day of spring – and it’s this that many celebrate. The International Day of Nowruz has, this decade, been registered on the UNESCO ‘List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, spreading festivities to countries like the US and Canada, aiming to promote peace and solidarity between generations and inside families, reconciliation and neighbourliness, contributing to cultural diversity and friendship across communities.
Nowruz is a secular holiday, celebrated for different reasons by different peoples, but it’s religious roots can be traced to Zoroastrianism, a religion whose practices dominated ancient Persia (mostly what is now Iran). Zoroastrian communities still actively practise, the largest in southern Iran and India. For the Parsi community, Nowruz is their spiritual New Year and hence has huge importance. It is also a holy day for Alawites (Syrian mystics) and Alevis, and is hugely significant for followers of the Bahá’í faith.
Geographically, the festival’s origins in Persia mean that the Middle East and Central Asia is where the holiday is primarily celebrated. In many areas, children will have a fourteen-day vacation from school, and most adults have time off work. Friends and family share meals in each other’s homes. Preparation starts early with a traditional spring cleaning, new clothes and new furniture.
Countries where business may be affected include Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan – and more!
Cultural festivities may include:
- Chahar Shanbeh Suri – jumping the fire
- The Haft-Seen table – a table set with specific, symbolic spices, coloured eggs and other symbolic items.
- Special foods, including a noodle soup, whose noodles represent the twists, turns and knots of life – straightening them out can bring good luck.
- Sizdeh Bedar – the thirteenth day of Nowruz, when people may mark a symbolic return of things from the Haft-seen table to the earth.
Our generic advice for anyone working in a cross cultural environment is that any celebration is generally more complex than a single day off in a single place, unless the holiday is a State one. It’s important to let people know when, and ideally how, you’re celebrating when something’s important to you. And if you work with people who are celebrating, ask questions, find out more – show an interest. You’ll get an insight into the people you work with that helps you build a relationship and develop trust in each other, especially valuable if you work on a virtual team with them.
This post’s cultural celebration information has been put togetherby unravelling the mixed bag of information and reports that I’ve been able to find online from respectable sources, and from snippets from colleagues with experience. I’m also very conscious that to my very Western eyes, the festivities will look very different to those celebrating, and that there are also historic and political dimensions to the holiday.
At Global Integration, we know from experience that nothing beats knowledge from people who actually celebrate themselves – and this can vary hugely from area to area, let alone country to country. So I’d love it if you would share your stories of Nowruth celebrations in the comment box below. We’d love to hear how you celebrate/are affected by the holiday.
(If you send photos to webmaster @ global-integration.com – with the spam busting spaces removed – or tweet them to @GlobalInteg we’ll endeavour to share them.)