The spirit of Spring is celebrated in Persia. spring represents renewal, and what lies ahead for the rest of the year. At the time of the equinox the elder begins the well-wishing by standing up and giving out sweets, pastries, coins, and hugs. An old saying goes, "Good thought, good word, good deed-to the year end, happy indeed."
The Persian New Year begins at the precise moment when the sun passes through the vernal equinox, almost always on the 21st of March, and the following thirteen days are marked by a series of festivities and visits to relatives and friends. Persian sweets and floral mists signify clalm, happiness and sweetness in Persian homes. On the last Wednesday of the old year bonfires are lit in gardens and open spaces over which people jump as they ceremonially rid themselves of their sorrows.
Every house prepares a display known a "Haft-sin" (the Seven S's), consisting of seven objects the name of which in Persian begins with the letter S, completed by a copy of the Holy Quran a mirror and a bowl of goldfish.
• Sabzeh - wheat or lentils grown in a tray or dish prior to Noe-Rooz to represent rebirth,
• Samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence,
• Senjed - the dried fruit of the lotus tree which represents love,
• Seer - which means garlic in Persian, and represents medicine,
• Seeb - which means apple in Persian, and represents beauty and health,
• Somaq - sumac berries, which represent the colour of the sun rise,
• Serkeh - which means vinegar in Persian, and represents age and patience,
• Sonbol - the hyacinth flower with its strong fragrance heralding the coming of spring, and
• Sekkeh - coins representing prosperity and wealth.
The other items in the spread include:
• Shirini - Sugar cookies and pastries,
• Candles - representing enlightenment and happiness,
• Mirror - representing the reflections of creation on the first day of spring,
• Painted eggs - representing fertility,
• A bowl with goldfish - representing life and the end of the Zodiac sign of Pisces,
• An orange in a bowl of water - representing the earth floating in space,
• Rosewater - thought to have magical cleansing powers and
• A copy of the Holy Koran and Divan-e Hafez
The Spirit of Renewal
In parallel with the rebirth of nature, extensive spring-cleaning is a national tradition observed in almost every household in Iran. This is also extended to every persons attire, and it is customary to buy at least one set of new clothes. On the New Year's day, families dress in their new clothes and start the twelve-day celebrations by visiting the elders of their family, then the rest of their family and finally their friends. On the thirteenth day families leave their homes and picnic outdoors.
Ingredients: (4 servings)
Wheat, 500 grams
Wheat flour, 2 kg
Samanoo is usually made at the Iranian new year (starts on the first day of spring: 20 or 21 March).
• Wash wheat with cold water, then rinse. Add cold water until there is 2-3 cm of water over the wheat. Leave for about two days, changing the water after the first day. The wheat should begin to germinate. Rinse thoroughly.
• Hold a thin piece of cloth under cold water until it is completely wet. Pour wheat inside and wrap the cloth around it. Place it in a bowl and leave the bowl in a warm place. Once or twice a day, sprinkle a bit of cold water over the cloth to make it wet but not soggy.
• When roots appear, spread wheat on a large plate, then spread the cloth over it and sprinkle with water. Continue sprinkling with water once or twice a day until silvery sprouts appear. Wheat should be used before the sprouts turn green.
• Grind the wheat, add two glasses of cold water, and mix well. Filter out the excess water. Press the wheat hard to squeeze out the extract. Add wheat extract to flour while mixing. The mix should become thin.
• Place the mix over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mix starts boiling and thickens. Continue heating until water disappears. Fry the mix without any oil or sugar for about 10-15 minutes.
• Gradually add 1-2 glasses of hot water and mix well. Allow to boil slowly, stirring occasionally until the mix slightly thickens. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes at low temperature.
Sabzi Polou Mahi
The New Year's day traditional meal is called Sabzi Polo Mahi, which is rice with green herbs served with fish. The traditional seasonings for Sabzi Polo are parsley, coriander, chives, dill and fenugreek.
4 cups (32 Oz) of white long grain rice.
4 table spoons of cooking oil.
1/2 cup (4 Oz) chopped Chives/Scallion stems (tarreh/piAzcheh).
1-1/2 cups (12 Oz) Parsely (jafaree).
1 cup (8 Oz) coriander (gheshneez).
1-1/2 cups (12 Oz) fresh Dill Weed (sheveed).
A few large, outer leaves of lettuce.
4 Oz of water.
• For best results, soak the rice for a few hours in hot water and salt before cooking.
• Wash and drain the vegetables. Using a cutting board and while repeatedly bunching up the vegetables, finely chop them.
• In a medium size pot, half-way filled with water, bring the water to a boil. Add the rice (and the water it was soaking in), and let it cook for a few minutes until it starts boiling. Stir the rice a few times during the boiling process. Occasionally chew on a few of rice grains to see if they have softened.
• Near the end of boiling, add the fresh chopped vegetables (if you are using dried vegetables do not add them in yet because they will get washed out). Stir the rice one last time and then take it out and drain it in a kitchen stringer. Run the tab water on it to wash out some of the excess salt.
• Pour the oil in the pot, add 4 Oz of water, lay the lettuce leaves in the bottom of the pot and add a bit of extra oil if necessary. If you are using dried vegetables in place of fresh ones, you will have to mix them in as you are adding thin layers of rice in the pot, in the shape of a heap.
• With the back of a spoon, make five holes, one in the center and four around it so that the rice can breath in the cooking process.
• Spread a little water on top and close the lid. Let it cook for a few minutes on high heat. When steam starts to rise, change the setting to medium heat and let it cook for another 15-20 minutes. Then turn the heat to medium-low, sprinkle some cooking oil to prevent drying, and let it cook for about another 10-15 minutes before serving.
Fish Stuffed with Fresh Herbs
(Mahi-ye tu por ba sabzi)
• Rinse fish in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and rub inside and out with 1 teaspoon salt.
• In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté garlic, parsley, tarragon, scallions, coriander, and mint; add walnuts, barberries, raisins, lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Mix well and remove from heat.
• Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill the fish with the herb stuffing; pin the cavity shut. Lay the fish in a greased baking dish. Dot the fish with the remaining oil and saffron water; place in the oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on the size of the fish), until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Baste occasionally with pan juices.
• Arrange the fish on a serving platter and garnish with lime or Seville orange slices.
• Serve with chelow (Saffron Steamed Plain Basmati Rice) and fresh herbs.
Note: If using fish fillets, place the stuffing in the center of a greased baking dish. Cover it with fish and pour the saffron water, oil, and juice over the fish. Continue with step 4.
Another traditional dish Reshteh Polo, is rice cooked with noodles which is said to symbolically help one succeed in life.
The thirteenth day celebrations, Seezdah Bedar, stem from the belief of the ancient Persians that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of which, the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos. Hence, Noe-Rooz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.
At the end of the celebrations on this day, the sabzeh grown for the Haft Seen spread (which has symbolically collected all the sickness and bad luck) is thrown away into running water to exorcise the demons (divs) and evil eyes from the house hold. It is also customary for young single women to tie the leaves of the sabzeh, prior to discarding it, symbolizing their wish to be married before the next year's Seezdah Bedar. When tying the leaves, they whisper...
The festival of Noe-Rooz represents a major part of the Iranian peoples' rich culture and is one of the cornerstones of their civilization. It has remained intact for over 4000 years bringing joy and hope to every Iranian, no matter where they reside and which religion they have moved on to.