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A Conversation About Nowruz in America

A "haft seen" display
A "haft seen" display
A Conversation about Nowruz in America
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It is the first day of spring throughout the northern hemisphere. And for Iranians and other cultures and countries in Central Asia, the day is very important. Today is Nowruz. Here in studio with me is my co-worker Kaveh, who is Iranian-American. And I thought we could talk about how you celebrate Nowruz in America.

Hi Kaveh.

Hi Ashley.

Eide Nowruz Mobarak.

Thank you, Ashley.

You're welcome! Did I say that right?

You did.

Okay. So can you talk a little bit about how you and your family are celebrating today?

Nowruz for us is our new year. It means "new day." In Iran, it's celebrated for two weeks. And during this time, families clean out their houses, they put on fresh new clothing, and they visit friends and family members. But here in the U.S., we celebrate it a little bit differently. We get together on Nowruz with our family, we make food and eat together and spend time together; and we also celebrate the first day of spring, which is a new beginning for us.

One of the very important things for Nowruz is the "haft seen." "Haft seen" means "seven s's," so seven items that start with the letter "s."

That's correct, Ashley. "Haft seen" is our tabletop arrangement. And it's the seven symbolic items that we use to display Nowruz. It's very beautiful, because there are many items in there with various vibrant colors. It's sort of like the American Christmas tree during the Christmas holiday season here in the U.S.

So we have the first "seen," which is "sabzeh," which kind of means "green vegetable," in a way?

Sabzeh in the haft seen display
Sabzeh in the haft seen display

It's actually wheat or barley or lentil sprouts. It's grown in a dish. And it represents rebirth.

And our second "seen" is "samanu?"

Yes, "samanu" is a sweet type of pudding, that represents affluence.

And, "senjed." It is a kind of olive?

Yes, it's a Persian olive. And it represents love.

Interesting. [Next we have] "seer," which is garlic, and that represents health or medicine.

Garlic, apples, and 'sabzeh' are part of a Persian "haft seen"
Garlic, apples, and 'sabzeh' are part of a Persian "haft seen"

That's correct.

Okay. "Seeb" -- I also know this word -- apple. And the apple represents beauty?

It does.

And what are the final two?

The sixth one is "sumaq." It's pretty much sumaq fruit. And it represents sunrise. And the last one is "serkeh," which is vinegar, and that represents old age and patience.

How long do you display this "haft seen?"

We typically have the "haft seen" set up a week or two before Nowruz, and about 13 days after. Because the 13th day after Nowruz is considered "Sidzeh Bedar." That's another holiday where we get together with friends and family and typically go to a picnic. And we take our "sabzeh...."

Which is the barley or lentil plant?

Exactly. And we go to a stream or a river, and we release it into there.

So you put it in nature.


Kaveh, is it ever difficult to find these items for your "haft seen?"

Well there are a lot of Persian supermarkets around the area, and I have to tell you that during this time, they are very crowded!

I bet!

There are long lines and a lot of people go there to gather their seven "s's" for their "haft seen" arrangement. Here in the Washington, D.C., area, we have a big Persian community that celebrates Nowruz. I know that in Los Angeles, California, the community over there is much larger, but we still get together here to celebrate the beginning of spring.

A "haft seen" display
A "haft seen" display

Alright! I know you also took some photographs of your family's "haft seen." So our audience in Iran and around the world...if you are curious what the "haft seen" looks like...check out our website, and you can enjoy Kaveh's beautiful photographs.

Thank you so much, and "eide shoma mobarak!"

"Eide shoma mobarak."

I'm Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Kaveh Rezaei.