The roots of this festival, which has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years, go back to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. The holiday is celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Western China, Iraq, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Depending on the country, the day is also known as al Nooruz, Nauruz, Nauryz or Nuruz.
Nawruz differs from the Muslim New Year’s Day in that it is based on the solar calendar, while the Muslim calendar is based on the lunar. It is common to forget all resentments and disputes, to settle debts and to clean the house in general. Also, on this day you go to visit each other.
For this day, many families set a table after ceremonial default “Haft Sin”. In Persian, this means “seven S” because the name of each of the seven elements that are supposed to be on the table begins with the Persian letter S(in). On a classic Nawruz table, there should be:
1. “Sabzi”, the germinated sprout of wheat or lentils, as a symbol for the rebirth of nature.
2. “Sumalak” (or “Samanu”), one of the dishes traditionally prepared for the celebration. It consists mainly of germinated wheat grains and symbolizes good deed and blessing.
3. “Sib”, apple, which symbolizes health and beauty.
4. “Sir”, garlic, which stands for medicine and protection.
5. “Sendsched”, oleaster, as a symbol of love and the seed of life.
6. “Somagh”, spice sumac, which symbolises dawn with its red colour. With the rise of the sun, good defeats evil.
7. “Serke”, vinegar, which stands for patience and happiness.
In many countries, folk festivals take place on this day, where people wear traditional clothes. There are also competitions; one of the most famous is Buzkashi.
Sumalak – Traditional dish of nawruz
One of the rituals of Nawruz is the preparation of a traditional Sumalak (also known as Samanu). Sumalak is usually cooked in a large cauldron. The main ingredients are sprouted wheat, flour, cotton oil (or other vegetable oil). Whole walnuts or pebbles are added to prevent the dish from burning. Traditionally, it is considered a symbol of luck when you find a walnut or pebble on your plate while eating.
The preparation of Sumalak is very time-consuming, as the dish has to simmer overnight. At the same time, however, it must be stirred constantly so that it does not burn. Since this would be too exhausting for one person alone, the dish is cooked within the family and the family members take turns stirring it. Traditionally, the women are responsible for preparing this delicacy; often they sing and dance while cooking. It is also commonly believed that wishes expressed during the preparation of Sumalak are more likely to come true.
The finished dish is thick, caramel-colored and tastes sweet. However, no sugar is added, the sweetness develops through the cooking process.
The food is not only eaten within the family but is also served to friends, neighbors or simply passers-by.