Time—it has been said—is a concept, by which we measure our pain. We’re gonna say it again… time… is a concept… by which we measure… our pain. Now, let’s take that concept (with its accompanying pain) and turn it around. In doing this, we’ve invented celebrations. Some peoples and cultures mark the measurement of time on a seemingly random time-space moment known as January 1st, and others do so on the Spring Equinox. Iran is one of those places, where its people do the latter. Iranians, and other places and cultures, call this celebratory moment, the Nowruz. To help you get familiar with this pain-avoidance mechanism, we bemoan the Nowruz celebration, while embodying Ebenezer Scrooge. So, join us for the “bah! humbuggery!”, and learn a little about the Nowruz, in the process.

Questions we also get answers to in this episode

  • What does “bah humbug” mean and how did it become a thing?
  • How should you correctly spell Nowruz, in Latin?
  • Why do Iranians interchange the terms “Jashn”, (Persian) when they mean “Eyd” (Arabic)?
  • What’s the real name of the Shia Muslim sometimes known as the “Time Lord”?
  • What do Iranians give as gifts for Nowruz?
  • How does the Iranian national anthem sound when sang incorrectly?

7 things you should know about the Iranian Nowruz celebrations

  1. “Red Wednesday”, or as we say in Iran, “Chaharshanbe Suri” is a celebration held on the night of the last Tuesday of the year. Among other activities, people jump over a naked flame.
  2. The Nowruz strictly begins on the Spring Equinox, and the Iranian new year will begin on that day. This can mean that sometimes people will stay up late for the countdown to the Nowruz/New Year, or possibly count it down in the afternoon (as was the case this year — Iranian calendar year 1400).
  3. Decorative scenes known as the “Haft Seen” or “Haft Sin” are made by Iranians and put on display — certainly on Instagram. The “Haft Seen” is made up of seven things that begin with the letter ‘s’ (“س”) in Persian:
    1. Sabzeh (سبزی) – wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts
    2. Samanu (سمنو) – wheat germ sweet pudding
    3. Senjed (سنجد) – oleaster
    4. Serkeh (سرکه) – vinegar
    5. Seeb (سیب) – apple
    6. Seer (سیر) – garlic
    7. Somāq (سماق) – sumac
  4. Hajji Firuz, is a traditional Nowruz character that people dress up as during the Nowruz period. This character is seen as racist these days because one must paint one’s face black when assuming this character.
  5. Goldfish are kept in glass containers that are, for the most part, not oxygenated. These fish will likely be on display beside the “Haft Seen”.
  6. Sizdah Be-dah” is the name for the 13th day of the Iranian Nowruz/New Year celebrations. On this day, Iranians get outdoors and have picnics together. This day concludes the Nowruz celebrations.
  7. Iranians have an equivalent to April Fool’s day. On the 13th day of the Nowruz/New Year, Iranians may perform “Doroogh e Sizdah“, in which they’ll try to fool one another — check out ours, here…

Translations of Persian (Farsi) used during this episode

PersianEnglish translation
Nowruz:“New Day” – the name for the Iranian (and other nation’s) New Year
Eyd:“Celebration”
Tavalod:“Birthday”
Didani:“Seeing” – the process of visiting people during the Nowruz
Hezaar Toman:“One thousand Tomans” – A ‘Toman’ is worth ten Iranian Rials
“a” appearing alone, will be pronounced as a short-a — double ‘aa’s are long, as used in the word “water”

Image credit: Pixelated picture of somebody dressed as Hajji Firuz, created by Ask An Iranian.