I have decided that one “New Year” is not enough – I’m going to celebrate new quarter years. Four chances, instead of one, to flub the New Year’s Resolutions – or refresh and recommit to them.
Not such a crazy notion, as it turns out – around the world, the New Year is celebrated in winter, spring, summer, and fall. January 1 was not adopted, worldwide, as the standard civil start of the new year until the 20th century! Thailand didn’t get on board with that until as recently as 1941.
And so, my New Year calendar is as follows:
January 1: While I think this is a terribly arbitrary choice for “New Year’s Day,” I’d hate to miss out on all the fireworks, champagne, caviar, and kissing. Imagine if someone asked, “Did you make any resolutions for the coming year?” and you replied, “What coming year?”
Nowruz: Coinciding with the exact moment of the vernal equinox, the beginning of spring, and falling just after my birthday and my son’s – and just before my mother-in-law’s – I think this is my favorite. My haft-seen is always just a little “off” – seems I’m always substituting at least one of the “s” items with something else, and I like to think it expresses my individuality and an imaginative “rebirth” (or, as I said to my sister-in-law, yesterday, it’s because I’m a bit of a smart aleck). See if you can spot it:
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 traditional symbolic dishes consist of:
- Sabzeh or sprouts, usually wheat or lentil representing rebirth.
- 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.
- Seeb means apple and represents health and beauty.
- 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.
- Seer which is garlic in Persian, represents medicine.
- Somaq sumac berries, represent the color of sunrise; with the appearance of the sun Good conquers Evil.
- Serkeh or vinegar, represents age and patience.
Other symbolic items may include:
- a few coins to represent prosperity and wealth;
- a basket of painted eggs to represent fertility;
- a Seville orange floating in a bowl of water represents the earth floating in space;
- a goldfish in a bowl represents life and the end of astral year-picas;
- a flask of rose water known for its magical cleansing power, is also included on the tablecloth;
- a brazier for burning wild rue, said to ward off evil spirits;
- a pot of flowering hyacinth or narcissus;
- a mirror which represents the images and reflections of Creation;
- candles representing enlightenment and happiness;
- something completely wacky and personal to symbolically represent one’s own thoughts and hopes for the new year (yeah, I just made that one up – sounds better than “Gosh darn it, I forgot to grow the sabzeh again!” or “Where in the name of all that’s holy do you buy Lotus fruit and Seville oranges in Houston, this time of year? Would a kumkuat and a couple of horse chestnuts, or a Lychee do?”).
For more info, see http://www.farsinet.com/noruz/haftsinn4.html.
Our anniversary: Our wedding anniversary happily coincides with the summer solstice, and symbolizing my new life as a married woman with a new family of my own, seems fitting for my third New Year celebration. This will be our 30th “new year” together.
Oktoberfest: Just kidding – well, mostly. But it does coincide with the autumnal equinox. The end of the harvest. The means to survive another winter – with bread and beer. Notably, the Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah and the Coptic Orthodox Christians celebrate their new year, Neyrouz, in the fall, as well. Interestingly, the similarity in names – Nowruz and Neyrouz – was basically a mistranslation and misunderstanding by the Arabs, who mistook the Egyptian new year’s celebrations, which the Egyptians called the feast of Ni-Yarouou (the feast the rivers), for the Persian feast of Nowruz.
Whenever and however you choose to celebrate the new year – and whether you celebrate it only once, or quarterly – I wish you a happy one, and many more to come!
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