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Nowruz Customs and Rites (Part 5)


All ancient Iranian dynasties namely Samanids, Deylamites, Aale Ziyad and Safavids showed profound interest in safeguarding national rites and rituals and festivals. During Nowruz celebrations they observed rites and rituals according to the traditions of their forefathers. Observing Nowruz celebrations during Safavid rule is worthy of attention, particularly based on the traditions presented by such great narrators or transmitters of traditions as Allameh Majlesi. It seems that Nowruz had found an Islamic nature in Safavid period, like the contemporary age and it was difficult to make a distinction between ancient and Islamic elements in this glorious festival.

Some of the rites and Customs of Nowruz
Growing of Sprouts: A few days before Nowruz, Iranians soak in water the seeds of wheat, barley, rice, beans, lentils, millet, peas, sesame, broad beans, safflower, corn, and grass pea in sevens (symbol of seven archangels of Zoroastrianism) or in twelve (symbol of twelve months) in clay columns and take as good omen growing of each seed. The ancient Iranians believed that growing seeds into greenery in the New Year will bring back blessing to the house.

Haft Seen and Nowruz Table Setting
The number seven has been of special significance to the Iranians (mostly in religious terms) for ages. The ancient history of Haft Seen (seven items starting with the Persian letter S) setting dates back to the time of Sassanid Dynasty. Some experts say Haft Seen setting is a symbol of seven trays or seven dishes used to be served at the ancient times and that, it was first called Haft Seeni (Seeni means tray in Persian language) or Seven Trays but the ending letter or “i” has been omitted in the course of time and the ritual is now called Haft Seen.
The items of the Nowruz Haft Seen setting were water and greenery (symbol of cleanliness and abundance of blessing), brazier (symbol of the sustainability of light and heat that were later replaced with candles and lanterns), milk (symbol of renovation, resurrection and rebirth), egg (symbol of race and germination), mirror (symbol of transparency and purity), oleaster fruit (symbol of enamor, pregnancy and reproduction), apples (symbol of the mysterious state of love), pomegranate (symbol of sanctity), newly minted coins (symbol of blessing and wealth), fish (symbol of the month of Esfand passed), and rose water (reminding of the water spray ceremony), bread baked from seven cereals, dates, cheese, sugar, Barasam (branches of pomegranate, willow, olive, and fig sacred trees in threes, sevens or twelves) and the sacred book.
Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

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