Persian New Year 2016 has an exact time every year, but it’s not quite as clean cut as midnight in the Western world. Instead, every year people celebrating the holiday Nowruz (also known as Norooz or Nawroz) have to check in to make sure they’ve got it right.
Persian New Year’s time is calculated based on the vernal equinox, and the moment for the ball to drop — Persian style — lands exactly on the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator — which, in turn, equalizes night and day. In 2016, that hour came to pass at 12:30:12 AM Eastern time on Sunday morning — so if you’ve come here wondering when to celebrate, you’ve already missed the boat.
Next year, you can be better prepared, however, by knowing that Persian New Year always lands on either March 20 or 21. The exact time chosen comes at the moment where sunlight is evenly divided between the Northern and Southern hemisphere. It generally occurs 5 hours and 49 minutes later every year until “resetting” every leap year by falling back 18 hours and 11 minutes.
Still celebrated in 2016, Persian New Year has a long history of practice. Most historians date it back to at least 200 BCE, though the first specific reference to Nowruz was just after the beginning of the modern era. In 224 CE, the beginning of the Sasanian Dynasty, which at one point dominated almost the entire Middle East, also kicked off an era of deeper preservation of historical record.
Because of that, it’s from then on that the traditions of Persian New Year, many still performed in 2016, are scoped out. Gift giving for instance, is well-documented here, as well as the annual pardoning of prisoners, writes Iranology.
“The thirteen days of Nowruz are spent visiting relatives, giving gifts, and enjoying the company of family and friends. Nowruz has survived many attempts made against its existence exactly because of its deep roots in the traditions of people of Iran and its multi-ethnic and extra-religious quality. Nowruz is also the natural rebirth of nature and despite its Iranian characteristics can easily be celebrated by all the people in the world!”
Just like any other of the world’s major holidays, there are, of course, some traditional foods that are eaten around the world when Persian New Year comes to pass. Many of them hold a special symbol toward well wishes for the coming year; while the entreé is often Sabzi Polo Mahi, made of white fish, rice and green herbs, writes Farsi Net.
- sabzeh: renewal; lentil, barley or wheat sprouts
- samanu: affluence; pudding
- senjed: love; dry lotus tree fruit
- sir: medicine; garlic
- sib: health and beauty; apple
- somaq: sunrise; sumac berries
- serkeh: age and patience; vinegar
Persian New Year 2016, while with some roots in Zoroastrianism, is essential a secular holiday. That doesn’t, however, make it any less rich in ritual. Even the time period beforehand is filled with celebrations.
“Nowruz is preceded by Chaharshanbe Suri, another celebration with roots in agricultural tradition, and lasts for Thirteen days. Its official end is the Sizdah Bedar, a national day of picnic when everyone goes out to the nature to enjoy the beauty of the revitalized world. The common and popular roots of Nowruz mean that it is free of any official or religious rituals, although as the official New Year, it is marked by Bank Holidays. “
Happy Persian New Years 2016! Did you make it in time?
[Image via Mario Tama/Getty Images]