NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
Thursday , 03/29/2012 - 11:48
Norouz
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
Part 1

Introduction
The Islamic conquest altered many Iranian traditions specifically associated with national ideology, imperial institutions, and Zoroastrian rituals. Although Norouz was an established symbol of these three aspects, it did survive while less significant festivals were eclipsed by their Islamic rivals and gradually became abandoned by indifferent Mongol and Turkish rulers or hostile clerical authorities during Safavid and Qajar periods. Norouz survived because it was so profoundly engrained in Iranian traditions, history, and cultural memory that Iranian identity and Norouz mutually buttressed each other, and the emergence of a distinctly Persian Muslim society””and later the emergence of a nation state with the advent of the Safavids””legitimized the ancient national festival and allowed it to flourish with slight modifications or elaborations. Indeed, as will be set out in subsequent sections, the incremental expansion of Norouz ceremonies from the Safavids, through the Qajars, to the Pahlavi period enabled the court to parade its power and strengthened its attempts at forming a stronger central authority. Besides, it explains the establishment of increasingly sophisticated and protocol-ridden royal audiences with all the pomp and ceremony they could muster. Like all rituals, therefore, it both manifested a belief or ideology and reinforced it through an annual recital. It was precisely because Norouz was associated from the outset with cultural memories of the splendor and divinely bestowed power of the royal courts of pre-Islamic Persia that it was attractive to rulers, from the Abbasid caliphs to the Pahlavis. Along with its many ceremonies, and most notably that of gift exchange, it provided the rulers with an alternative source of affirming and enhancing their power and prestige through a strictly non-Islamic channel; for unlike religious festivals, they could appear and be celebrated as the focal point and the peerless heroes of the occasion.
While most of the traditions now associated with Norouz have been inherited from the past usages, no comprehensive history of Norouz in the Islamic period has been written. Such an account must be pieced together from occasional notices in general and local histories, brief records by geographers, and scattered references in works of poets and storytellers. Only for recent times do we have detailed information in the form of eyewitness reports by travelers and, more importantly, studies of contemporary practices throughout Persia and countries affected by Persian culture. But even these are problematic, as the former category mainly describes court usages and the latter usually gives uncritical narratives embellished with rhetorical and, frequently, fanciful interpretations.
History up to the Safavid period
The Arabs captured the capital of the Sasanian Empire on a Norouz day, taking the celebrating inhabitants by surprise. Henceforth, the early Arab governors forcefully levied heavy Norouz and Mehragan taxes on the conquered people. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs retained this onerous burden of taxation on their conquered subjects, but, at the same time, they also celebrated both Norouz and Mehragan with considerable relish and pomp, thereby helping to keep alive Norouz and its many traditions. Later, other Islamic dynasties of Persia did the same, and the court poets praised the occasion and offered their congratulatory panegyrics. Yaqut reports that the Buyid (see BUYIDS) ruler customarily welcomed Norouz in a majestic hall, wherein servants had placed gold and silver plates and vases full of fruit and colorful flowers. He sat on a costly seat (masnad), and the court astronomer came forward, kissed the ground, and congratulated him on the arrival of the New Year. Then the king summoned the musicians and singers and invited his boon companions. They entered and filed in to their assigned places, and all enjoyed a great festive occasion. Beyhaqi describes the lavish celebration of Norouz at the Ghaznavid (see GHAZNAVIDS) court, and some of the most beautiful descriptive opening passages of Persian courtly panegyrics are in praise of Norouz.Their simple yet melodious rhythms suggest that they may have been accompanied by music. The melodies known as the “Norouzi” airs, apparently inherited from the Sasanian period, included the Great Norouz (Norouz-e bozorg), Norouz-e Kay Qobad, the Lesser Norouz, the Edessan Norouz (Norouz-e rahawi, comprising the Arabian and Persian melodies). In the 14th century, ل¸¤afeل؛“ says that “the melody of the Norouz breeze (bad-e Norouzi) rekindles the inner light, and the melody of the “Throne of victory” (taل¸µt-e piruzi) inspires the song of the nightingale intoxicated by flowers.”‌
The Norouz festivities were by no means restricted to the royal courts. It was “a solemn feast through all of Persia ... observed not only in the great cities, but celebrated with extraordinary rejoicings in every little town, village, and hamlet”. In Shiraz, Muslims and Zoroastrians celebrated Norouz together and decorated the bazaars (Moqaddasi, p. 429). Biruni testifies that many ancient Norouz rites were still observed in his time. People grow, he says, “seven kinds of grains on seven columns and from their growth they draw inferences as regards the crop of the year whether it would be good or bad” (Biruni, Chronology, tr. Sachau, p. 217). They held the first day of Norouz as particularly auspicious, and the dawn the most auspicious hour (Idem, p. 217). Tasting honey thrice in the morning of Norouz and lighting three candles before speaking were thought to ward off diseases (Idem, p. 216). People exchanged presents (notably sugar), kindled fire (to consume all corruptions), bathed in the streams (Idem, p. 218), and sprinkled water on each other.
NOROUZ IN THE PRE-ISLAMIC PERIOD
part 2

Ebn Faqih (p. 165) specifies that “this ancient custom is still observed in Hamadan, Isfahan, Dinavar, and the surrounding regions,” and the Tarjoma-ye Tafsir-e Tabari (I, p. 148, n. 1) adds that in so doing people said: “May you live long! (zenda bashia!zenda bashia!).” We may add that to this day traditional households sprinkle rose water on relatives and guests. According to Kushyar (apud Taqizada, p. 191), the sixth day of Norouz was called “Water-pouring [day]” (sabb-e al-ma) and was revered as the Great Norouz and “the Day of Hope,” because it commemorated the completion of the act of creation. Ghazali (I, p. 522) strongly disapproved of Muslims celebrating Norouz by decorating the bazaars, preparing sweets, and making or selling children’s toys, wooden shields, sword, trumpets, and so on.”‌
In 897, the Abbasid caliph al-Motazed (r. 892-902) forbade the people of Baghdad “to kindle bonfire on New Year’s Eve and pour water [on passersby] on New Year’s Day,” but fearing riot he rescinded the order (Tabari, III, p. 2163). The Fatimid caliphs also repeatedly forbade the kindling of fire and sprinkling of water at Norouz). abi described the rules issued against Norouz celebration in the fourth century Baghdad as follows: “A Muslim was forbidden to dress like a demmi [that is, people of the book, namely Jews, Christiams, and ل¹¢abians, and by extension Zoroastrians], ... to give an apple to someone on Norouz to honor the day, to color eggs at their feast,” and, in general, “sharing in jollifications on that occasion was condemned.” Some non-Muslims “hired a special cook to work during the night to have the dishes fresh in the morning, gave parties for relatives and friends, at which they served green melons, plums, peaches, and dates if they were in season.” Women bought special Norouz perfumes, and “eggs were dyed in various colors. To sprinkle perfume on a man ... and tread seven times on him was a means of driving away the evil eye, laziness and fever. Antimony and rue were used to improve the sight during the coming year.
“During the Norouz festival, people gather for seven days in the bazaar of Karina, a suburb of Isfahan, engaged in merriment; they enjoy various food and go around visiting decorated shops. The inhabitants and those coming from other places to participate in this festival, spend a good deal of money, wear beautiful clothes, and take part in gatherings for plays and merrymaking. Skillful singers, both male and female, take their places side by side on the riverside along the palaces. The whole atmosphere is filled with joy and happiness. Many assemble on rooftops and in the markets, engage in festivities, drinking, eating, and consuming sweets, not letting an idle moment to pass by.
A particular custom was the enthroning of the “Norouzian ruler” (mir-e Norouzi, somewhat similar to the Lord of Misrule in Medieval Western literature and folklore). A commoner was elected as “king” and provided with regalia (often mockingly old and unseemly), a throne, court officials, and a number of troops, and he ruled for a few days and was fully obeyed. Then he was dethroned, beaten, and forced to flee (Qazvini, 1944; Idem, 1945). In some regions, particularly in Kurdistan, this ancient tradition is still practiced. Religious views on Norouz. Opposition to ancient Iranian observances was natural in a strictly Muslim society, and a few attempts at restricting Norouz rites have already been noted. Some claimed that the Prophet had told those who celebrated Norouz and Mehragan that God had given them two superior feasts, namely, al-Fetr (end of fasting month) and al-Nahr (the Feast of Sacrifice; al-Alusi, p. 336). Others asserted that Ali b. Abi Taleb (A.S) had said “for me a feast day is that on which I do not sin”. Naser-e Khosrow (cited by Honari, p. 194) expressed “shame” when hearing about the auspiciousness of Norouz: “although throughout the world Norouz is dear and pleasant to the ignorant to me it verily appears as unsavory and demeaning.” Abu Hamed Mohammad Ghazali declared that all festive acts must be abandoned and one should fast on such days and not even mention the name of Norouz and Sada so that these “Zoroastrian observances” become “degraded and turned into perfectly ordinary days and no name or trace of them shall remain”. In contrast, many legitimized Norouz as an Islamic Iranian feast. A tradition attributed to the Prophet (hadith) describes him accepting a bowl of sweets as the Norouz gift and blessing the day as the occasion of renovation of life with its special custom of sprinkling water on each other as the symbol of divine rainfall (Biruni, p. 215). Another report claims that Ali b. Abi Taleb (A.S) received Norouz gifts from a Persian landlord (dehqanan) and said: “May every day of ours be a Norouz!”‌.
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
Part 3
Scholars wrote in Persian and Arabic on the history of Norouz, its rites, auspiciousness, and the various properties of its days; others collected poetry composed in its honor or words rhyming with Norouz. The accounts by Musa b. Isa Kasravi, Jahez“, Pseudo-Jahez, Biruni, and Pseudo-KHayyam still constitute our main source on Norouz. Several short treatises on the characteristics of Norouz or literary, religious, and astrological comments on it are also extant (ed. Harun V, pp. 17-48), but many others referred to in the sources (for a list see ل¹¢ayyad, pp. 81-3) have not survived. Several calendar reforms were effected in by the Abbasids and the Buyids before the Saljuq sultan Jalal-al-Dawla Malekshah established in 471/1079 the Julian-style solar year that fixes the beginning of the calendar year (Norouz) at the vernal equinox.
A widely reported Hadith transmitted by Moalla b. KHanis, a Persian disciple of the sixth Shiite Imam Jafar-e Sadeq, gives Norouz a very strong Islamic significance and recounts for each of the “thirty days of each month” qualities which are directly parallel to those given in the Pahlavi treatise of Mah Farvardin Khoordad even with regard to the names of the patron deities of those days.Imam Jafar-e Sadeq said that Norouz was a most blessed day because it was on that day when God made the Sun rise, the wind blow, and the earth flourish; the occasion when He made a covenant with the pre-existing souls of mankind to worship none but Him, brought Noah’s ark ashore safely, and the day when He will resurrect the dead by ordering the living to pour water on them (hence the auspiciousness of sprinkling water on each other at Norouz). It was on that day that God sent Gabriel with His message to Mohammad (PBUH), that the Prophet shattered the idols of Mecca and nominated Ali (A.S) at the GHadir-e Khomm as his legatee, as well as the day when ت؟Ali defeated the heretics at Nahravan, and when the Mahdi, the Lord of Time, will appear. Indeed, “no Norouz comes unless we expect salvation from grief, for this day is an attribute of ours and our Shiites.” after the publication of such works, the faithful were assigned the task of greeting Norouz with elaborate prayers which include several suras of the Qoran (Naba).
Later History
The festive celebration of Norouz during the Safavid period is well attested (see bibliography). In preparation to it, commanders, ministers, favored officials, rich merchants, and guild leaders were given pieces of land in the vast park of Bagh-e Naqsh-e Jahan of Isfahan to decorate and illuminate. Each group set up tents with canopies of silk and brocade, and erected booths variously embellished; servants offered drinks and sweets to large crowds for several days. In the royal palace, a large table cloth (sofra) was spread on the floor of the Hall of Mirrors (talar-e aina), and on it were placed large bowls of water and plates of various fruits, greeneries, sweets, and colored eggs. According to Chardin (II, p. 267), in keeping with an ancient Iranian tradition, on the eve of Norouz people send each other colored eggs as gifts. The shah gave some five hundred of them to his womenfolk. The eggs are encased in gold and decorated with four miniature paintings. The shah sat at the head of the sofra, amongst the royal women he favored most, who were all bedecked in jewelry. They engaged in pleasant conversation, and then, at the shah’s command, female dancers, musicians, and singers entered and entertained the audience. In another chamber the court astronomer was trying to determine the exact moment of “the turn of the year” (tawil-e sal, that is, when the Sun entered the sign of Aries at the vernal equinox). As soon as he gave the sign that the New Year had arrived, pages sent off firecrackers into the sky, and, seeing this, the household female servants let out cries of exultation thereby announcing the good news to the king and his companion. At the same time, the news was made public by some palace guards firing off their muskets and citadel guards their cannons, whereupon an official band occupying the center of the great town square (Meydan-e naqsh-e jahan) beat on their drums and kettledrums and blew into their wind instruments (sornay). Shouts of joy filled the air; eunuchs opened special bags of wild rue (esfand) and sprinkled seeds into the fire, causing the air to be pleasantly scented. The shah, as all other Iranians, gazed at a bowl of water the moment the year “ turned,” believing that “water is the symbol of prosperity” and if one looks at it at the turn of the year he would enjoy happiness all year long. A few prayers were recited, and everyone wearing new clothes drank some water or rosewater, congratulated elders, kinsfolk and friends, and partook of sweets. Elders presented gifts to the members of household, relatives, servants, and friends, and distributed alms to the poor, dervishes, and local Sayyeds (descendants of the Imams). In the palace, the shah held a great banquet with wine and music for military commanders, senior civil officials, foreign envoys and notable merchants. In other households elaborately prepared dinners were served, and in general everyone enjoyed the occasion with drinks, music, visitation, and exchanges of gifts and pleasantries. Children were particularly happy, and enjoyed the holidays running around, receiving various gifts, playing various games, and watching polo, wrestling, and horse racing. The gifts exchanged depended on the status of the individuals. The shah sat in the audience hall and distributed gifts, usually gold and or silver coins placed in small colorful bags, to the courtiers, kinsfolk, household servants and foreign envoys. He received in turn precious gifts from his harem, ministers, representatives of social groups and professions, provincial governors, and envoys of neighboring countries. The shah and rich notables also ordered the slaughter of livestock according to religious rites and distributed the meat to the needy. During the following days, people went outdoors and spent the time in the open air playing, feasting, horseracing and, when possible, hunting.
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
(part 4)

Nader Shah Afshar (r. 1736-47) always celebrated Norouz by holding a feast and distributing gifts and robes of honor, as did Karim Khan Zand (r. 1751-79) and his successors (see bibliography). In the Qajar period (1779-1925), the public practices were similar to the contemporary observances (see below), but the official celebration underwent elaborations. Generally, the shah received guests consisting of kinsmen, military and civil official, leading religious figures, tribal chiefs, poets, heads of various guilds, and, increasingly, foreign notables. Naل¹£er-al-Din Shah (r. 1848-96) began to regiment the festivities by introducing military bands, sending invitation cards, and holding Salam into three audience sessions. The Salam-e Tawil (‘greeting for the turn of the year’) started an hour before the turning of the year and lasted for about four hours. The table of haft sin was prepared in front of the Peacock Throne in the Museum Hall (Talar-e Mmuza), and dignitaries gathered around it: military officials headed by the crown prince on the one side, civil officials headed by the chief finance minister (Mostowfi-al-Mamalek) on the other side; the leading clergy, Qajar princes carrying royal arms and insignia, and cabinet ministers headed by the prime minister (sadr-e azam) flanked the throne. The Master of Ceremonies announced the arrival of the shah, who appeared bedecked in jewelry and proceeded, among the bowing of the silent audience, to the throne and took his seat. The court orator would read a sermon in praise of the Prophet and the first Imam until the court astronomer announced the turning of the year. The shah offered his felicitations first to the Ulama and then to the officials, recited some verses of the, drank a sip of water, and presented gifts (coins inside small red-silk bags) to the clergymen, who took their leave forthwith. Then the music band played cheerful tunes, and the shah distributed gifts to the audience and left for the inner quarter of the palace. On the second day, a general audience was held in the Marble Palace (Salam-e Jamm-e TaKht-e Marmar). The shah and senior Qajar princes carrying royal regalia assembled, together with civil and military officials, received foreign envoys and presented them with gifts, paying particular attention to the Ottoman ambassador. Then the shah sat on a bejeweled chair placed upon the Marble Throne, and his aid announced the start of the public audience, whereupon music bands played, cannons roared, drums beat, and trumpets sounded. The poet laureate recited a poem in honor of Norouz and in praise of the shah, and the official orator closed the ceremony with a flamboyantly eulogistic address. On the third day, the Salam-e Sar-e Dar, a truly jovial public occasion, was held in the Marble Palace. The shah appeared on a balcony accompanied by officials as well as favorite womenfolk and attendants, and the public participated in the festivities. Ropedancers, keepers, and trainers’ monkeys, bears, and fighting rams entertained the crowd in front of the palace, and received their rewards. Court jesters made everyone laugh, and wrestlers fought for the highly coveted position of the supreme paladin (Pahlavan-e PayetaKht), which entailed receiving a special armband. On the thirteenth day (Sizdah Bedar) people moved out of the towns and celebrated the end of Norouz in parks, gardens, and along the streams (see below).
In recent times, the official celebrations were condensed into one day of public audience, broadcast since the 1940s by the radio and since the 1960s by the television. These media have tended to standardize the Norouz ceremonies and, consequently, a great deal of regional variations is fast disappearing. At present, government offices are closed for five fays and educational institutions for thirteen. Houses are cleaned, and new clothes obtained. A fortnight before Norouz, wheat (or barley, or both, sometimes lentil and other seeds as well) are grown in earthenware plates or in a bag of thin cloth wrapped around a clay jar. In rural areas the Norouz-Khanan, that is, minstrels consisting of boys, youths, and even adults, go around at evenings before Norouz and stop before doors; they recite chants in praise of Norouz, play on drums (Tonbak) and tambourines, and receive rewards in kind or money. In 1842 Alexander Chodzko collected a good selection of such chants in Mazandaran (for contemporary chants see Maleki; Darvishi; Honari, pp. 107-16; Purkarim). Nowadays in cities, especially Tehran, Haji Firuz performs the Norouz-Khani.
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
part 5

In rural areas, many people still greet Norouz by collecting rainwater for their Norouz sofra, and by kindling bonfires on rooftops, in alleys or in courtyards. In towns this has become an elaborate ceremony on the evening of the last Wednesday of the year to kindle seven or nine fires and to jump over them while chanting a verse (see CHAHARSHANBA SURI). Until recently, a few days before Norouz wooden arches were erected at street junctions, bazaars, and shops and they were lavishly decorated with variegated carpets, tapestry, pictures, mirrors, flowers, and greeneries. At present, fruits, sweets, and colored eggs are placed in containers together with pitchers of rose water and pure water. People of every call and means stroll around or get busy buying large quantities of sweets, fruits, and dry nuts. The sweets, most importantly the Sowhan, Samanu/Samani, and small cookies made with chickpea or rice flour, are prepared at home or bought from confectioneries. Most favored fruits used to be apples, sour orange, lemon, quince, grapes, and pomegranate, but now various oranges, pears, even bananas, etc., are in style. The nuts include pistachios, shelled almond and walnut, and roasted chickpeas, all mixed with melon seeds, dried apricots, raisins, and dried mulberries (see AJIL). The fruits, sweets, and nuts are placed in the Sofra-ye haft sin, together with bowls of water (one containing a red fish) and milk, candles and colored eggs, a mirror, the Sabze, a few garlic cloves, vegetables (tarragon, leek, spring onions, basil, etc.), some new coins, a copy of the Qoran (or other holy scriptures, depending on the faith of the household), some cheese, and a container of samanu/samani. Greeting cards of all sorts and contents are sent to family and friends. Families in bereavement do not celebrate Norouz. Many still believe that the departed souls of relatives will visit the house on the eve of Norouz, and the houses are accordingly cleaned and a meal, or Ranginak (a sort of pastry with pitted dates), or Ahla (sweetmeat made with rice flour, sugar, and saffron) is prepared and distributed (either in the streets or cemeteries) as offerings in memory of the departed ancestors (Honari, pp. 58-63 with literature; cf. Faqiri, 1971), in the tradition of Fravardagan (see FRAWARDIGAN). Also, there is still a widespread belief that on the morning of Norouz a child or a handsome adult must knock at the door and when asked “who is it?”And “what have you brought?” reply: “I am the fortune and I bring heath and prosperity”
On the eve of Norouz special kinds of bread are baked, and a meal (usually fish with rice pilaf mixed with herbs) is consumed. Lights from bonfires illuminate many a rural house and village, and candles burn on graves, often accompanied by dishes of sweets, again as offerings to the dead. Meanwhile festive bands go around singing, dancing, and playing music, usually receiving gifts from neighborhood families. The exact moment of the “turning of the year” is announced in advance. In anticipation, families gather around the haft-sin table, many reciting prayers intended to impart good will to all. As soon as the year “turns,” children and in-laws get up and kiss the hands of the father and mother (or other elders if present), and offer their greetings. They themselves are in return kissed on the cheek (males) or forehead (female), and given their gifts (usually new banknote, occasionally gold or silver coins), and then the junior members of the family go through the same procedure with their elder siblings or in-laws. Customary congratulatory exclamations are: “May your Norouz be happy!”, “May health, victory, and prosperity be with you this year and many (or a thousand) years to come!” And to the elders: “May God save you for us!” (KHoda Saya-ye Shoma-ra Az Sar-e Ma Kam Nakonad, lit. ‘May God not diminish your shadow over our head!’)? Replies are normally the same and for the last phrase run something like this: “May you are under the protection of God!” Then some sweets, nuts, and colored eggs are distributed among those present, and water is drunk for bringing health and happiness. The candles are not put out (certainly not by blowing on them) but left to be burned all the way. Immediately afterwards (or in the following morning if the year has turned during late night), kinfolks, household servants, friends, and acquaintances visit each other, go through the same ritual, are welcomed by the offer of rosewater, and partake of sweets and other delicacies. Those families who are in mourning usually visit the graves of the departed and pray, then return home. After that, the elders and notables of the society and the kindred visit them but without observing the customary ceremonies of Norouz, merely wishing them heath and long life and pray that no loss may befall the family again.
Children specially love Norouz. They do not need to work, go to school, or be restricted in play; they wear new clothes, receive gifts, and play various games, particularly the “egg-cracking” and tipcart (similar to baseball and played with wooden sticks, see ALAK-DOLAK).The following days are spent in visiting friends, going on picnics, and, increasingly, traveling to other cities and countries. Particularly favorite sites include Persepolis (I registered 1,330,749 visitors on 21 March 1976), Isfahan, Mashhad, and other historic monuments, as well as holy sanctuaries and shrines or the Caspian or Persian Gulf resorts for the more affluent. The thirteenth day is the “outing day,” and every family gets out, throws the plate of Sabza away (while making a wish that with it all mishaps may be averted), finds a spot in a park, garden, or along a stream, spreads a carpet on the ground, and enjoys the day by playing chess, backgammon, cards, Alak-Dolak, etc, singing, dancing, chatting merrily, and listening to music. Elaborate meals are cooked and large quantities of fruits, nuts, drinks, and sweets consumed. Having thus bidden Norouz a worthy goodbye, they return joyfully to their living places in the evening.
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
(part 6)

In other lands
Norouz has been celebrated with considerable zeal amongst the nations of Iranian background inhabiting other lands, namely, the Tajiks, Afghans, and Kurds of Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. In Tajikistan, particularly in the province of Badakhshan, Norouz is “the Great Festival” and “the inherited national festival,” symbolizing friendship and renovation of all beings. Various sweet dishes are prepared, and, in accordance with an old custom, before Norouz the matriarch of the house places a pair of red brooms in the upright position in front of the house entrance, and hangs a piece of red cloth over the lintel””red being the color of happiness and blessed times. The family’s most important belongings arte gathered outside, all doors and windows left opened, the house meticulously swept, and utensils thoroughly cleaned. Then the matriarch of the house re-enters, carefully replacing the furniture and utensils, and prepares for the arrival of Norouz. Visitation, greetings, and partaking of the sweets and drinks follow. The guests are entertained with sumptuous meals, particularly the Baj (head and trotters of a sheep cooked with whole wheat), and there then follow outdoor games, among which Tab-Bazi (playing on swings), egg-cracking, and wrestling are common.
In Afghanistan, Norouz is the official holiday, and in the BalKh area it is also called “the Feast of Red Roses” (Jashn-e Gol-e SorKh). The rites associated with welcoming the holiday (cleaning houses and buying new clothes, preparing sweet dishes and elaborate meals) and with celebrating it (school holidays, visitation, exchange of gifts, partaking of sweets and fruits) are much the same as in Persia. Even the preparation of the meal for the departed souls is customary. In Heart, the special meal is rice pilaf and rooster stew. The men who are betrothed, send Norouzi gifts to their brides, including a rooster, sweet dishes, and a set of clothes. Shortly before the “turning of the year,” men gather in mosques and shrines, and local priests recite prayers and write them on paper using as ink the water mixed with saffron contained in copper tubs; each man drinks a sip of the saffron water (Ab-e Zafarani), and some also take a bowl of it home for their family, viewing it as a symbol of blessing and abundance. The haft-sin spread (Sofra) is not usual, but the Samani (called Samanak in Herat) and Sizdah Bedar are. Outdoor games, particularly wrestling and Bozkashi (lit. ‘goat-dragging,’ an equestrian game) follow the usual visitation and indoor entertainment. In Mazar-e Sharif region it is called Alam-e Mobarak” (attributed to Imam Ali) and is raided by the elders and notables on the morning of the first Norouz day and taken down forty days later. During this period, it is an object of public veneration, and various votives are offered to it and boons are sought from it. The holidays continue for a time, but two days are especially important: the first ؤچaharshanba (Wednesday) and the sizdah. The first Wednesday rivals the usages of sizdah in Persia: people prepare special meals and spend the day outdoor in merrymaking and playing games. The day is especially joyful for women, who gather in gardens and peacefully party, sing, dance, and play, especially in the swing. Watching cock fights and camel fights is also common.
All Kurds celebrate Norouz with enthusiasm, even in lands where their traditions do not meet with official sanction. Great quantities of sweets and fruits are consumed, and women ceremoniously cook Samani. Everywhere elaborate bonfires are kindled and fireworks (on hill tops and roofs, in streets and the countryside) are accompanied by music, dancing, singing, and picnicking. In some areas the setting up of the “Norouzian king” is still practiced. Wherever Persian culture has gone Norouz has gone with it. Moqaddasi witnessed it celebrated in traditional Iranian way in Yemen. In the Fatimid Egypt, Norouz was observed as a national festival with all its Persian rituals: wearing new clothes, sprinkling water, kindling fire, carnivals, singing and playing music, official public receptions, exchanges of gifts, recitation of congratulatory poems, and distributing alms (citing Qalqashandi, Maqrizi, and Nowayri). A text, allegedly written by Ptolemy and based on the predictions of the Prophet Daniel, was circulated, which described the qualities of Norouz according to its place in any of the seven days of the week and in relation to planets and the Nile River. It was later adapted by Safavid scholars in describing the qualities of Norouz based on astrological associations (see HAFTA). Despite some opposition, Norouz continued to be celebrated in Egypt albeit somewhat modified, and survives to this day. In Spain, Ebrahim Hojri al-Qayrawani found it useful to give a collection of the congratulatory phrases used at Norouz. Moslem dynasties of the Indian subcontinent observed the Norouz rites ardently and fully as did the Ottoman sultans and officials (Carra de Vaux), the amirs of Bukhara, and the people of Central Asia and the Caucasus. In Northern Talesh (Abdali) and Arran (now in the Republic of Azerbaijan) Norouz is a national holiday, and buying of new clothes, cleaning and repainting houses, carnival-style minstrelsy and firework (Chaharshanba suri), and visiting relatives and friends are customary, as are the Norouz-Khani and preparation of the Norouz table with candles, water, flowers, sweets, fruits, colored eggs, and the Samani. The latter is considered the symbol of Norouz and celebrated in folk poetry, for example “Samani, look after me; I will prepare you every year” (Madadli; Abdali). The four Wednesdays before Norouz are days of festivities commemorating the four acts of creation, and are called Water Wednesday, Fire Wednesday, Earth Wednesday, and Air or Trees Wednesday (Fuad Aliyev, pers. comm. dated 2 February 2002).
NOROUZ IN THE ISLAMIC PERIOD
(part 7)

Muslim Indian immigrants took Norouz to South Africa (Iren) and sailors carried it together with the Persian (Zoroastrian-style) calendar to East Africa and to the coasts of the Indian Ocean (Khareghat). The Swahilis have retained much of the Norouz (vocalized as Nairuzi) ceremonies but adapted them to their beliefs and local rites: a feast is held one week before Nairuzi, and then comes fishing and collecting wood in bundles for five days. On the sixth day, another banquet follows, the Quran is recited, and on the next day people go to the beach, bathe, put on new clothes, sing and dance.They demonstrate the wide spread of Norouz celebrations and joyous songs associated with it among the peoples speaking Turkic languages: the Nachchevanis, Turkmens, peoples of Sivas, Afyonkarahisa, northern Caucasus and Central Asia, the Alavid Bektashis of Anatolia, the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, and the Altay Turks. Also there are useful accounts of the Norouz-related folklore and plant symbolism in Anatolia, and on practices common to various groups. They contain solid data which demonstrate the wide spread observation of the Norouz. Most recently, Iranian communities abroad have popularized Norouz and Sizdah Bedar far beyond the borders of Persia and the sphere of Persian culture.
Taken From: www.tebyan,net