Sunday, June 14, 2009
This was our ceremonial Norooz table called "haft seen" (or "seven dishes") Each of the seven dishes begin with the Persian letter cinn. The number seven has been sacred in Iran since the ancient times, and the seven dishes stand for the seven angelic heralds of life-rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty. The symbolic dishes consist of:
1. Sabzeh or sprouts, usually wheat or lentil representing rebirth.
2. Samanu is a pudding in which common wheat sprouts are transformed and given new life as a sweet, creamy pudding and represents the ultimate sophistication of Persian cooking.
3. Seeb means apple and represents health and beauty.
4. Senjed the sweet, dry fruit of the Lotus tree, represents love. It has been said that when lotus tree is in full bloom, its fragrance and its fruit make people fall in love and become oblivious to all else.
5. Seer which is garlic in Persian, represents medicine.
6. Somaq sumac berries, represent the color of sunrise; with the appearance of the sun Good conquers Evil.
7. Serkeh or vinegar, represents age and patience.
There were other objects on our table that do not start with the "s" sound, but are considered traditional: the Koran, a photo of loved ones that could not be with their family (my uncle in the U.S.), a photo of the prophet Ali (the person who Shi'ites believe was the first to profess his faith in Islam to Muhammad), oranges and goldfish to symbolize the sun, dyed eggs (perhaps a nod to the Christian Easter) and sweets of all kinds.
Norooz celebrates the beginning of the Persian year, which is also the spring equinox. The spring equinox is one of the two days of the year that the Sun moves across the celestial equator, the imaginary line among the stars that lies directly above the Earth's equator circling from east to west. The Sun's crossing of the celestial equator occurs one other time, on the autumn equinox. Both times this crossing occurs, the Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.
Norooz is like Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Years Eve put together. We eat a meal with family, we exchange gifts, we celebrate spring, and we count down to the new year which is the exact beginning of spring, which every year falls at an exact time down to the second.