Celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year

Please join us on Friday, March 19th for a cultural spring program celebrating the Persian New Year. This year, White Plains Public Library is hosting a reading of The Phoenix of Persia, written by Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif. Afterwards we will work on coloring eggs for the Haftseen. Grab & Go spring bags for our Nowruz program will be available on March 15th. If you are unable to register or pick up a kit, please feel free to join us. You will need white vinegar, eggs, and food coloring or washable markers.

Nowruz, or the Persian New Year, is an invocation of returning to the light. The Haftseen, or table arrangement, is one of the most important components of the Persian New Year. The Haftseen includes seven symbolic items from the natural realm. These items have their roots in the Zorostrian tradition (one of the oldest Monotheistic religions of the world). The seven items invoke the essence of spring, rebirth, and abundance for the new year.

For many Iranian-Americans, Nowruz is a time of celebration, spring and fertility. It is also a time of letting go of any negativity, and starting fresh, with a sense of hope and new life. Nowruz also has some ancient folkloric rituals, including creating a Haftseen, which literally means the Seven S’s in Farsi. All of the items have symbolic representation for the coming year.

The Haftseen encompasses the following items:

  • Sabzeh: wheat or lentil sprout growing in a dish, symbolizing rebirth
  • Samanu: sweet pudding from wheat germ, representing affluence 
  • Senjeh: dried silverberry, for love 
  • Sir: garlic, representing medicine 
  • Sib: apples, for beauty and health 
  • Sumac: a dried Persian spice the color of sunrise
  • Serkeh: vinegar, for patience 
  • Sonbol: Hyacinth flower, for spring

Families often include colored eggs, goldfish, and a book of poetry from Hafiz, an ancient mystical poet who lived in Shiraz, Iran (the town where I was born).

Happy spring and happy New Year–Nowruz Mobarak!

Suggested Readings:

The Phoenix of Persia by Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif
Library Catalog
The Phoenix of Persia is a beautiful book that tells the story of Simorgh, an ancient mythical bird, who takes care of a young prince. This young child grows to become Prince Zal, the father of the great warrior Rostam. The Phoenix of Persia brings this story to life by stunning illustrations of the Simorgh: golden, red, green and blue feathers fly over the mountain of gems. The story begins as children rush to Daneshjoo Park to hear about The Simorgh. Drums beat and the storyteller begins his epic tale. This wonderful folktale can be traced back to The Shahnameh–or the book of kings–written by the poet Abolqasem Ferdowsi, who lived over a thousand years ago. The Phoenix of Persia captures ancient Persia through amazing visuals, storytelling, epic tales, and music. The book also includes a QR code to access the music that accompanies the book. A treat for Iranian-Americans and anyone who loves folktales and epic stories.

Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Library Catalog
Rashin recalls her life in Iran (driving with her family and listening to Persian music) and compares it to riding the subway (and also listening to different types of music.) Rashin wonders how Coney Island will compare to the Caspian Sea. When her family reaches the beach, Rashin sees the ice cream sellers and asks for saffron ice cream. She is sad to learn they don’t have saffron, but enjoys the chocolate crunch. Rashin also makes a new friend at the beach.

Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar and illustrated by Khoa Le
Library Catalog
A young girl feels lonely as she recalls her life in Iran; she misses her friends, cats, kulfie and baklava. She keeps mostly to herself until her aunt encourages her to go for a walk. On their walk, the young girl learns the story of a king who accepts refugees into his kingdom after a wise leader explains that even if their cup is filled with milk, there is always room for sweetness, adding shekar (sugar) to the tea. A wonderful book that depicts the inner conflict of the refugee, always longing for home, along with the sentiments of creating a new home, as told through an ancient folktale. For the Persian people, folktales and legends are often used as a way to soothe the soul.

Recommended Resources: 

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