FRIDAY, MARCH 4: Zoroastrian communities around the globe are bustling with excitement today, as devotees and Persian citizens are beginning preparations for the Zoroastrian/Persian Nowruz (New Year). Nowruz officially begins on the vernal equinox, but preparation begins almost a month beforehand—and afterward, Nowruz celebrations continue for 13 days. (Wikipedia has details.)
Devotees—as well as Iranian citizens, who live in a country where Nowruz is also a cultural holiday—often spend weeks cleaning their houses, mirroring the “getting rid of old and making new” that is seen in nature in springtime. The official term for Nowruz cleaning is “Khaneh Tekani,” meaning, “Shaking of your house.” (Persian Mirror Magazine’s site has a full description of Nowruz preparations and other Persian holidays.) The Zoroastrian religion has always been closely tied with nature and agricultural seasons, and followers still uphold that aspect. Some Zoroastrians also believe the souls of their departed relatives visit during Nowruz, and so houses are also thoroughly cleaned for any spiritual visitors.
As Jews follow specific pre-Passover traditions in preparing for such a major holiday, Zoroastrians, too, begin elaborate preparations for their Nowruz Haft-Seen table. The sacred Zoroastrian table is covered in white cloth and is set with specific items brought by each family member: a mirror, for example, represents reflection of the past and showing of the future, while candles represent light and energy. (IranHeritage.org has details.) Wheat and barley seeds are sprouted for 10 days prior to Nowruz, and represent the gift of new life that comes with spring.