In many cultures around the world, the start of spring is celebrated as the start of the new year. In Afghan and Iranian culture, this practice dates back more than 3000 years and is known as Norooz. Literally translated as “new day,” it is a celebration of life, self-reflection, and starting anew. A time to clean out your home, invite over and visit family & friends, and share gifts and delicious foods with one another. It is also the time to create beautiful and stunning “Haftseen” displays to commemorate the start of the new year.
“Haftseen” means the “Seven S’s” which refers to the setting up of a display, where seven items (or more, but seven is considered the minimum amount) whose names start with the equivalent of the letter ‘S’ in Farsi are arranged in a display, with each item representing something different. While the exact setup of a Haftseen table can vary depending on cultural backgrounds, some of the common elements include:
- Sabzeh (Greens): Barley, wheat, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish. Considered to be one of the core components of a Haftseen display. It represents nature and rebirth, a symbol of the start of spring and the new year.
- Seer (Garlic): Symbolizing good health
- Seeb (Apple): Symbolizing beauty
- Somaq (Sumac): Symbolizing the sunrise of a new day
- Sekkeh (Coins): Symbolizing prosperity
- Senjed (Sea Buckthorn): Symbolizing wisdom
- Serkeh (Vinegar): Symbolizing cleanliness
In addition, there are also items whose names do not start with ‘S’ but are still used in the Haftseen display for their symbolic value:
- Eggs (Often decorated): Symbolizing fertility and life
- A Mirror: Symbolizing self-reflection
- A Goldfish: Symbolizing life
- The Qur’an: Symbolizing faith and the importance of God. Non-Muslim families celebrating Norooz might have a book of poetry in place of the Qur’an.
There is no one way to correctly make a Haftseen display, they can range from simple to extravagant:
Anyone can celebrate Norooz. Designing and setting up a Haftseen display can be a fun activity for the whole family. It’s always good to share happiness and love with family and friends, and to celebrate the rebirth of plant and animal life. It connects us on a personal level with the people and natural world around us, something we could all use a little more of.