Festivals in Iran are a fantastic way to be immersed in Persian culture and a wonderful way to meet friendly locals. From celebrating the New Year to the end of Ramadan, here a handful of festivals to put in your diary.
Nowruz, the Persian New Year literally translates as ‘new day’. A lot of the festivities are related to hope for the future and a state of renewal. It’s celebrated on the vernal equinox. The streets in Iran come alive with an infectious energy as people are out making the most of the New Year. Shopping malls can get busy as people prepare their Haft Seen, ‘The Seven S’s’, displays. The symbolic s’s are sabzi (usually spout shoots) and samanu (wheat dessert) which symbolise fertility and rebirth. Garlic (seer) and sumac (sumaq) are added in the hope for good health and apples (sib) and dried fruits (senjed) appear to mirror the sweetness of life. Finally, vinegar (serkeh) symbolises patience. Often you will find goldfish in a bowl as part of the display too. This is supposed to represent life. Other additions can include coins to represent income, hyacinth, a mirror, candles and a Quran. It’s a huge celebration and many take two weeks off to enjoy the festivities. This is also a time when Iranians get away from the big cities. Tehran is surprisingly quiet around this time.
Sizdeh Bedar, Nature Day, is the 13th and final day of the Nowruz celebrations in Iran. Families flock to parks and there are whole host of picnics on display. There’s always a feast with a whole array of food on offer, along with copious amounts of black tea. The sabzi from the Nowruz celebrations are usually tossed into water. The herbs are supposed to have absorbed all the bad parts of the previous year and so throwing it away represents getting rid of bad luck.
Saffron is an essential ingredient in Persian cooking. From sprinkles of it in fluffy rice, to being slow cooked in a succulent chicken stew, the most expensive spice in the world sits comfortably in a Persian kitchen. In the Iranian autumn, you can take part in the picking of this delicate crocus flower. The South Khorasan province is the best place to be for this as it’s widely famous for its fields of glowing saffron.
On the day before the last Wednesday before the Persian New Year, Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbe Suri. Heading back to its Zoroastrian roots, it’s today celebrated with a plethora of soaring fireworks shot into the night sky along with singing and occasionally dancing. Bonfires are ablaze all over the streets in Iran. People can be seen jumping over the flames which represents getting rid of bad luck or bad health.
Ramadan, the Holy Month in the Islamic calendar is a time when Muslims carry out a day-to-dawn fast. Eid al-Fitr makes the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, the end of the Ramadan period. Expect huge meals to be seen across the country after sunset.