We are honored and excited to be ringing in Nowruz with Child Foundation staff, sponsors, donors, supporters, and sponsored families. Sometimes called the Persian New Year or Iranian New Year, Nowruz is the first day of spring in our hemisphere and an ancient festival. It’s a time of year to restart, renew, and reset—which we all need during these trying times.
Nowruz is a celebratory time that has many diverse variations across different cultures. But ultimately, the beauty of this holiday is its ability to bring us together and unite a sometimes fragmented world.
If you’re unfamiliar with Nowruz and the traditions, read on to learn more about the holiday and how it’s celebrated around the world. Below we’ll talk about how Child Foundation celebrates Nowruz, and our recent virtual evening of entertainment and raising money for the universal cause of children’s education.
What is Nowruz?
“Nowruz” (pronounced [nowˈɾuːz]; meaning 'new day') is the Farsi word for the festival marking the beginning of the new year for millions of people around the world. With Persian and Zoroastrian roots, and it’s thought to be at least 3,000 years old. Nowruz is one of the most important holidays in Iran every year, but it’s also celebrated in many other parts of the world, including the Black Sea Basin, South Asia, Central Asia, and the Balkans, not to mention communities in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.
Nowruz is celebrated on the first day of the Iranian calendar—the spring equinox (aka vernal equinox), which falls around March 21st each year. At the moment the equinox occurs, the center of the sun sits directly above the equator. It’s also the time of year when daylight and nighttime each last 12 hours. According to the Persian calendar, on Nowruz this year, we will enter the year 1400!
What is the significance of Nowruz?
Nowruz is a meaningful and symbolic time of year for many. It signifies renewal, new beginnings, hope, and forgiveness. It’s also a time traditionally spent doing spring and house cleaning. As with many holidays, a central component of Nowruz is the gathering and celebrating of family, friends, and loved ones. Visiting family is at the heart of the holiday, as is calling those who are too far away to visit.
Though some of these traditions will look different than usual this year, Nowruz season is upon us and is already being celebrated across the world. It’s a unifying force that can bring together people from disparate cultures, living in all corners of the globe.
Nowruz is an important time for many of the children and families who are supported by Child Foundation. It’s a central holiday for our children in Iran, and it’s also celebrated by some families in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Photo credit: Saman Khodayar & Jamshid Farajavand
How is Nowruz celebrated in Iran?
In Iran, Nowruz has long-held and well-loved traditions that are celebrated across the country—and by Iranians living elsewhere. One of the most widely practiced traditions is that of the haft-seen. It’s a table setting that’s an arrangement of at least seven different items, each starting with the letter “seen” in the Farsi alphabet. This traditional table is generally set up weeks prior to Nowruz itself, as part of the larger Nowruz season.
The traditional seven items are sabzeh (sprouts), samanu (a sweet paste made from wheat), senjed (Russian olive), sumac (spice), serkeh (vinegar), seeb (apple), and seer (garlic). A few less traditional but widely used “seen” items are sekeh (coins), sonbol (hyacinths), and sa’at (clocks). Other non- “seen” items also include painted eggs, a mirror, goldfish, candles, and a book of significance.
How is Nowruz celebrated in Afghanistan?
Nowruz also marks the beginning of the new year in Afghanistan and millions of children are preparing to begin the new school year. Some in Afghanistan do not believe Nowruz is compatible with Islamic traditions and beliefs and is instead believed to belong only to Zoroastrian and Persian cultures. This is one of the central reasons why Nowruz is less popular in Afghanistan than in Iran though millions of Afghans observe it with eagerness.
The Nowruz season is typically not as long in Afghanistan, and some celebrants only have one day of new year festivities. Link in Iran, putting together a haft seen is also a beloved tradition in Afghanistan. Often instead of or in addition to the haft seen, a haft meewa is a popular tradition. The haft meewa is a mixture of seven different nuts and dried fruits served in water or syrup: hazelnuts, walnuts, prunes, almonds, raisins, pistachios, and Persian olives. The family enjoys the delicious dessert on the day of Nowruz.
How is Nowruz celebrated in Tajikistan?
Prior to Tajikistan’s independence in 1991 (at the collapse of the Soviet Union), celebrating Nowruz was actually illegal. Since then, it’s become a four-day public holiday that is widely celebrated. Just like in many Nowruz traditions, spring cleaning is an important part of preparations for the new year. Other common traditions include children gathering wildflowers, colorful attire, large gatherings, dance and music performances, and bazaars.
Why is Nowruz special for children?
One of the worldwide traditions of Nowruz is the practice of giving “eidi” to children. This is often a gift in the form of money—but other kinds of presents are sometimes given as well like new clothes.
In honor of eidi, here at Child Foundation, we’ve facilitated a years-long tradition of sponsors sending generous gifts to children during Nowruz. It’s one of the most popular traditions among our donors.
Countless children in cities, towns, and rural areas the world over are suffering from poverty. These financial burdens either prevent them from attending school at all or hinder their wellness, happiness, and life stability so much that succeeding in education is nearly impossible. The good news is that we can help them pursue their education, succeed in it, and create a more promising future for themselves.
When you send an eidi Nowruz donation to a child in Iran, it enables their family to purchase food. Food insecurity is extremely challenging in and of itself, but it also prevents children from being able to fully focus on education and perform their best in school. Food donations have an impactful influence on the success and future of children.
Eidi gifts to children in Afghanistan can be chosen according to the wishes of the donor. Food, school supplies, clothes, and essential household items are a few different ways we’ve helped out Afghan families in the past. If you’re not sure how you’d like your donation used, we’re happy to direct it where it’s most needed.
If you’d like to extend your generosity, eidi, and gift-giving beyond your own family and friends this year, consider donating to Child Foundation’s Nowruz Fund or sponsoring a child. It’s an incredible way to start the New Year—and one that will make an immeasurable impact on a young life.
How is Child Foundation celebrating Nowruz this year?
On March 14, we hosted Child Foundation’s Spring for Kindness Nowruz event, where we celebrated the holiday by gathering virtually. Highlights of the evening included host Tara Grammy (from the show “Persia’s Got Talent,” the film “A Simple Wedding,” and her role as Manijeh on YouTube), musical performances by award-winning artists like Kayhan Kalhor and Sahba Motallebi, an online auction, and lots of fundraising. It was a celebratory evening that benefitted our many Iranian and Afghan children in need.
More than 80 volunteers helped us prepare for the event and we ….
The Nowruz fund this year will be split between our Iran Care Package program to support families who have been hit hardest by COVID and the Unsponsored Children’s Fund for Afghan children who have long been waiting for a sponsor and are at heightened risk of falling out of school.
A very happy Nowruz and New Year from everyone here at Child Foundation. We hope that the coming year will be filled with peace, prosperity, and health for all—and that together, we’ll help children around the world thrive in school and build brighter futures.