Nowruz, or Persian New Year, literally means “New Day”, and is celebrated each year at this time. The day on the Gregorian calendar may vary because the Persian calendar is based on Solar Hijri algorithmic calendar. Nowruz marks the first day of the Persian year, which falls on or around the first day of Spring. The celebration will last thirteen days and is filled with several traditions that far pre-date Islam’s arrival to Iran. wikipedia
It is important to note that Nowruz is not a religious holiday, and is a very meaningful time to Iranians today, partly because of just that- it is Persian, not Islamic.
In the West we could liken it to Christmas. Many non-religious Americans celebrate Christmas because it is marked as a special time of coming together, not necessarily because of the religious connotations. While Christmas Day is December 25th, many have weeks off of school and work, begin preparing months in advance, travel to be with family, and think of this as the most special time of year. In the Islamic State, Nowruz would bear similar warm feelings and preparation traditions, again, not attached to religious observations.
One of the trademark traditions of Nowruz is an arrangement of symbolic objects displayed called “haft sin”, which translates to “seven ‘s’ “. These are seven objects that all begin with the letter ‘s’ in Farsi, the language of Persians:
Sabzeh (سبزه) – wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
Samanu (سمنو) – sweet pudding made from wheat germ.
Senjed (سنجد) – Persian fruit.
Serkeh (سرکه) – vinegar.
Seeb (سیب) – apple.
Seer (سیر) – garlic.
Somāq (سماق) – sumac.
Other symbolic items that are typically used to accompany haft-sin include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, hyacinth, and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” is also commonly included, which might be the Quran, Ad’iyyih-i-Hadrat-i-Mahbú, the Bible, the Avesta, the Šāhnāme of Ferdowsi, or the divān of Hafez.
On the last day of Nowruz, families and friends will gather outdoors for picnics and enjoy nature. You can see that this holiday in many ways, brings Persians, particularly in Iran, together in a very special way.
Persians are unlike other Middle-Eastern people groups in that they easily adapt to other cultures and traditions, especially when they leave Iran and immigrate to other countries. This holiday, in many ways, keeps them connected to their Ancient Perisan heritage – long before Islam.
prayer for persians during nowruz
With this understanding, you can now imagine how difficult it would be to be seperated from family and friends for Iranians at this time of year. If you didn’t have anyone to celebrate with, specifically other Persians who understand and value these traditions, it could be similar to the feeling of a college student away from their family at Christmas time, in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
You can also now imagine how to pray for Iranians, both inside and outside of Iran. During this special time (March 21st – April 3rd) please pray for the Persian World with us. Below are some prayer point to help you.
PRAY FOR THE LONELY. Join us is prayer for Iranians that are separated from their families due to displacement, estrangement, or other circumstances. Pray that the Lord will connect them to the family of God during this time, that they would find comfort from believers. (Psalm 68:6)
PRAY FOR SAFETY FOR TRAVELERS. Many will travel to be with family and loved ones. Pray for their safe passage. Just this week, there was an incident which left 102 dead after a ferry carrying families traveling for the celebrations capsized in Iraq. (Psalm 91:1-8)
PRAY FOR EVANGELISTIC EFFORTS. During this time, many believers are utilizing the opportunity of Persians being ‘off-work’ and available for fellowship to engage in outreaches, serving those who do not have families to celebrate with, sharing the Gospel, and equipping young believers. Pray for Christian workers who are reaching out to Persians, for grace in their efforts and the leading of the Holy Spirit in all that they do. (Colossians 1:11)