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Nowruz In Iran

Nowruz

Nowruz, an Iranian festival, is the most important spring festival since ancient times. There are many historical statements about the formation of Nowruz. It is noteworthy that the Nowruz festival was inherited from the Aryan ancestors of modern Iran, and has been celebrated since before Zoroaster. Indeed, it is probable that the Nowruz ceremony has been practiced continuously from the 13 or 14 century BC.

The word Nowruz in the Latin alphabet

The word Nowruz is spelled differently in foreign texts. The first part is variably written as No, Now, Nov and Naw and the second part as Ruz, Rooz or Rouz. Sometimes it’s written as one word and sometimes as two. But in Dr. Ehsan Yarshater’s (the founder of Iranica Encyclopedia) opinion, the best spelling for the word according to phonological rules, is Nowruz. This is the spelling used by IONESCO and many political texts.

Nowruz customs

The customs of Nowruz vary from one country to another. For instance, in Afghanistan people place seven different fruit on the table, while in Iran seven things beginning with the sound /s/.

The ancient Iranian Nowruz Ceremony

The customs and conventions of Nowruz are rooted in ancient times and are interesting demographically. Iranian people believed that the destinies of individuals and the world were determined during Nowruz. It is said that Zoroaster had a secret conversation with God and Nowruz was the day to distribute happiness to all people in the world, Which is why Iranians called it the Day of Hope. A few days before Nowruz, the ancient Iranians planted seeds in the columns of raw mud brick and believed that their flourishing was lucky and that the seeds blessed and fertilized the New Year. The seeds they planted were wheat, barley, rice, beans, lentils, millet, peas, sesame, lanatus, corn and vetch. They planted seven grains of each as the symbol of seven Emshaspand (Ahuramazda’s pure attributes) or twelve as the holy number of the months.
Seven has always been a sacred number among Iranians as well as in most of the religions. Haft Seen is a very old tradition and it goes back to the Sassanian era. Some experts think that Haft Seen originated from Haft Seeni (seven trays of seven frames) on the Nowruz table and later “i” was omitted. The things on the table were water and greenery (symbols of brightness and prosperity), fireplace (a symbol of the stability of light and heat; later changed to a candle and lamp), milk (a symbol of birth and resurrection), egg (a symbol of race and the zygote), a looking glass (a symbol of transparency and serenity), oleaster (symbols of love, birth and fertility), apple (a symbol of the mysteriousness of love), pomegranate (a symbol of sacredness), newly minted coins (symbols of blessing and wealth), goldfish (a symbol of the past month, Esfand), sour orange (a symbol of the globe), pussy willow flower (the specific flower of Esfand), rose water (a remnant of the tradition of Water Pouring), bread baked from seven seeds, date, cheese, sugar, Barsam (branches from the sacred trees of pomegranate, willow, olive and fig in parcels of three, seven or twelve) and the Holy Book, the Quran.
Chaharshanbe Suri, a welcoming celebration to Nowruz: Ancient Iranians believed that light was the symbol of God and appreciated the sun and fire because they were sources of light and brightness. The word Chaharshanbe Suri consists of two parts: Chaharshanbe (Wednesday, the last Wednesday of the year) and Suri or Surik (red). Red Wednesday was the main introduction to the Nowruz festival. In different places of Iran people celebrated Chaharshanbe Suri according to their own customs and conventions. What all the customs shared was the lighting of a fire. All the different dominations believed that fire was a sign of victory and cheerfulness. At sunset people made seven or three (symbol of the three praise-worthy temperaments) piles of bushes and when the sun vanished completely they set the piles on fire to let them take the place of the sun. These fires were set in the desert, vacant lots or in the yard or roof of people’s houses. People ran and jumped over the flames and sang songs asking for blessing, health, fertility and purity.
The creation of the world: The spring rain, blossoming and growth of leaves on trees, drawn out days and increased daylight led ancient Iranians to believe that Nowruz was the time when the world was created. Count-down to New Year: At the count-down to New Year all members of the family wore their new clothes and sat at the Haft Seen table. Grandparents sat at the heads of the table and parents and children sat beside them. It is believed that at the time of count-down to New Year everybody had to look at the looking glass. Then the oldest member of the family read some verses from the Holy Quran. When the count-down was over a cannon was fired which announced the beginning of the New Year, and the family kissed and congratulated each other for the New Year. Older people gave coins or bills which were put in the Quran as a gift to younger members of the family. If the beginning of the New Year was during the day, the young people went directly to their older relatives’ houses and ate the first lunch or dinner of the New Year with them.
Farvardin 6 (March 25), the Great Nowruz: Farvardin 6 was a special day for Iranian people and called the Great Nowruz or the Great Feast. Many things are thought to have taken place on this day. The ancient Iranians who thought that Farvardin 1 was the beginning of the creation of the world believed that God finished his creation on Farvardin 6. Besides, there is a myth saying that this was the day Kei-Khosrow, the King who was fed up with the world and longed to go to the next one, was exalted to the other world after five days of praying. It was also the day to spread happiness among people and accordingly called Hope Day.
It is also the day of the founding of Iran. Fereidun distributed the world among his three sons: Salm, Tur and Iraj on the same day. Arash the Bowman determined the border between Iran and Turan by firing an arrow, losing his life in the process. This is the day God blew the soul into the human body. All these myths contribute to Farvardin 6 being called the Great Nowruz.
Water Pouring Festival and the convention of washing: Water and the need for rain has always been the centre point of sacredness in Nowruz customs. Water is one of the most important things on the Haft Seen table. It plays the main role in all Nowruz conventions including: planting greenery, washing, ablutions, splashing water and putting greenery in water. All these conventions are about hoping for enough rain or water in the New Year for cultivation and habitability.
In ancient Iran there was a tradition to wake up at the Nowruz dawn and wash in a pond or canal. People sometimes poured stream or river water over themselves to cleanse their bodies from contaminants and misfortune. People say that the reason for this custom was that once it didn’t rain for a long time in Iran and when it suddenly rained very heavily people began splashing water on their bodies as a blessed. The convention continued and every year people participate in the water pouring celebration by splashing water on each other.
Sizdah Be Dar, seeing off Nowruz: Sizdah Be Dar Festival was one of the most prominent customs among ancient Iranians. It was unacceptable to be sad on that day and people wanted to seek refuge in nature and finish Sizdah Be Dar to go back to their usual life as soon as possible. Placing greenery in water is one of the customs of Sizdah Be Dar which is a sign of cultivation.

 

Seezdah Bedar

The thirteenth day celebrations, Seezdah Bedar, stem from the belief of the ancient Persians that the twelve constellations in the Zodiac controlled the months of the year, and each ruled the earth for a thousand years. At the end of which, the sky and the earth collapsed in chaos. Hence, Now-Rooz lasts twelve days and the thirteenth day represents the time of chaos when families put order aside and avoid the bad luck associated with the number thirteen by going outdoors and having picnics and parties.

 

Haft Seen

The Zoroastrians of ancient Persia celebrated the creation of life by offering their god, Ahura Mazda, seven trays filled with symbolic objects representing truth, justice, good thoughts, good deeds, virtue, prosperity, generosity and immortality.

Today, the tradition is continued through the setting of the table or spread with an arrangement of several items of which seven of them start with the Persian letter Seen (in English S). The Persian translation for the number seven is "Haft", hence, "Haft Seen" means "Seven S's". It is customary for the family to gather round the Haft Seen spread a few hours before the New Year and recite poems from Hafez and verses from the Holy Koran. At the exact moment of the New Year, the oldest person in the family continues the traditions by hugging and wishing each member well and offering sweets, pastries, and coins. Banknotes are sometimes placed between the pages of the Holy Koran to bless them before they are given to the younger members of the family.

 

The contemporary Haft Seen spread includes seven of the following items:

  • Sabzeh - wheat or lentils grown in a tray or dish prior to Noe-Rooz to represent rebirth,
  • Samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence,
  • Senjed - the dried fruit of the lotus tree which represents love,
  • Seer - which means garlic in Persian, and represents medicine,
  • Seeb - which means apple in Persian, and represents beauty and health,
  • Somaq - sumac berries, which represent the colour of the sun rise,

  • Serkeh - which means vinegar in Persian, and represents age and patience,

  • Sonbol - the hyacinth flower with its strong fragrance heralding the coming of spring, and

  • Sekkeh - coins representing prosperity and wealth.

 
 

Festival of Rose and Rose Water

Deputy Editor of Iran Review

Every year during the second half of May, festival of Rose and Rose Water is being held in Kashan. Many people from different parts of the country and abroad visit Kashan, the hub of Mohammadi Rose in Iran.

The season for picking rose and preparing rosewater is from early May to mid-June.

In early May, the scent of rose spreads over different areas of Kashan, such as Qamsar Joshqan Qali, Barzak and Niasar.

The ceremony for making rosewater in Kashan attracts many tourists. Every day, some 80,000 people tour various cities of Kashan for this traditional ceremony.

The arrival of tourists in the districts of Kashan has a positive impact on the region’s economy.Rose water is made from a very sweet smelling kind of rose and is used in various traditional dishes and sweets. It is also used as a perfume among Muslims. Although some modern mechanized

factories are constructed, but still a large part of this, let say industry, is done traditionally. And this traditional rose water production which is established at homes or gardens attracts tourists to Kashan. Historical monuments and architecture of Kashan adds to the popularity of this festival too.

The people of Ghamsar collect roses, boil them in special pots and collect their water in beautiful containers. It is a pride for the city that each year, the most sacred place on earth, Kaaba (Mecca), is washed with rose water from Ghamsar.

The ancient city of Ghamsar is like a shining star on the central Iranian desert.

Surrounding mountains encircle it like a ring and protect its rose gardens against the heat of the desert. The environment of this garden city, the shade of trees and sound of flowing water in addition to music of birds and nightingales and fragrance of roses, has created an incredible milieu on the side of the desert.

The garden city of Ghamsar is a patch of Paradise which becomes colorful as the spring begins. Its beauty is doubled when rose water ceremony commences and its hospitable people play host to millions of people who love nature and rose water of Ghamsar.

Mohammadi Rose (Rosa damascene or Damask rose) is among the most important roses in the world and among the most famous plants.

Because of its extraordinary fragrance and diversity, this flower is planted in many parts of the world. The flower has applications in food, medicine and perfume industries.

Production of rosewater in Iran dates back to over 2,500 years. At present, Mohammadi Rose is produced in Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India, Ukraine, the US, Canada, France, Britain and Japan. The first four countries are pioneers in the production of this flower.

In Iran, Mohammadi Rose grows in the provinces of Fars, Kerman, Isfahan as well as East and West Azarbaijan.

The red rose, or Mohammadi rose, is further divided into seven groups: French red flower, wild rose, tea flower, miniature red flower, Bengalese red flower, and Iranian red flower.

Out of all rose species, the Iranian red flower or Mohammadi flower is unique and most botanists have opined that it has been first planted in Iran and then taken to other countries.

Experts maintain that Ghamsar has been a place for producing flower and rose water since a long time ago. Some believe that under Malekshah the Seljuk, when Miyandeh Mosque of Ghamsar was built, representative of an East Roman officials picked some roses from the slopes of Kouh Asbi mountain near Ghamsar and took them to Damascus (which was called Damask in those times) to be grown. This is why Iranian red flower is sometimes called Damask rose in English.

 

Although production of plant essences has a long history in Iran, but traditional rose water production machines were used to produce rose water for commercial purposes. Before that, rose water was produced through small distillation equipment for local uses. Anyway, production of rose water has been in vogue since ancient time and has sometimes led to prosperity of copper, glass making and packaging industries. Most of the local product is exported to other parts of the country and, therefore, despite most handicrafts, it has held its ground in contemporary times and has constantly improved in terms of quality and quantity.

Another outcome of that situation was spread of the industry to neighboring villages of Ghamsar and even to other provinces during past decades. The emphasis put on Ghamsar is due to high quality of its rose water which results from natural conditions of the city.

The city has been and still is the main production center for the highest quality rose water as a result of its natural and climatic conditions. According to a study carried out by professors of Tehran University, the essence of Mohammadi flower of Ghamsar and the subsequent rose water has a concentration of 35 mg per 100 ml or 350 ppm, which makes it the finest and highest quality rose water in Iran and even in the world.

Equipment used for extraction of rose water in Ghamsar is nearly traditional and has hardly changed over the years. They include:

1. A copper pot with a capacity of 120-150 liters;

2. A big clay pot, which has not been replaced by the copper pot and is used to cover the pot. A major advantage of clay pot was that it did not burn the fragrance of the flower;

3. A copper pitcher with handle and a capacity of about 30-40 liters which is put in cold water, so that flower streams are turned into liquid;

4. Four wooden canes which are attached to each other to connect the pot to the pitcher; today, they use aluminum pipes instead of those canes;

5. A water pool where liquefaction is done; and

6. Heating equipment under the copper pot which is usually fed by oil or diesel fuel. In the past they used wood and bushes to warm it up.

First the copper pot is put on an oven made from bricks and cement or stones and mud. The heating agent is put below it. Then up to 30 kg of rose petals are poured into the pot and 80 liters of water is added. The pot is then covered and a heavy weight is put over it to control steam pressure. Probable holes and cracks are covered with a mortar made of the remnants of boil flowers and bread dough to prevent loss of steam.

Instead of weight and dough, they use elastic washers, screws and levers. The copper pitcher is put into the water and is kept in place by a ladder, or more recently, by cast iron pipes, so that, it will not rise to the surface of the water. Then canes or aluminum pipes are inserted into the pot, on the one side, and into the pitcher, on the other side and they wrap it in a piece of fabric with a cotton ball, so that, water would not penetrate into the pitcher. Water or any other foreign object will ruin the rose water.

Now, everything is ready. They kindle the oven to boil the pot. At that time, rose water and water steam progress in the pipe as far as the angle. From there, rose water steam continues toward the pitcher and is liquidated due to low temperature of environment. It takes about 4 hours before a pitcher full of rose water (40 liters) is obtained. When they pour the rose water into the bottle, they wait for it to cool down.

Then they rub some oil on the bottle. The waste collected at the bottom of the pot, which is called “bongol”, is used to feed livestock and is also dried to be used as fuel in winter or as fertilizer for gardens.

During the whole process, the flame should be steady and mild. In better words, the longer the distillation period and the steadier the flame, the higher would be quality of the end product. The water poured into the pot should be measured accurately to be proportionate to the weight of flower petals.

workshops in the city which produce rose water.

The first rose water production plant in Iran was established in Ghamsar in 1974-75 after studies were conducted by Bulgarian experts. It was built on the outskirts of Ghamsar (at 15th kilometer of Ghamsar – Kashan road). The second rose water production plant was established at the entrance of Ghamsar city and is called Golriz. The cooperative company of rose water producers of Ghamsar has established a plant at industrial park of Ghamsar in order to solve the problem of pasteurizing traditional rose water, which was the main hurdle on the way of production and sales of rose water. Behin Golab Company of Ghamsar is another example of industrial rose water production plants in the city and more plants will be launched soon.

Due to containing tannin, gallic acid, essence, fatty acids, pigments and ascorbic acid (vitamin C), petals of Mohammadi flower are used not only for production of rose water and essence, but for production of rose petal jam.

Since a long time ago, this plant was used in traditional medicine to treat various diseases including chronic diarrhea, rheumatic pains, blood abnormalities, and sore throat.

The part of the flower, which is used to produce rose water and essence, is petals. Boiled petals of Mohammadi flower are alkaline and constitute a good remedy for stress, flatulence, and abdominal colic. The boiled petals are also used to fight depression and to treat palpitation, insomnia, ordinary and bloody diarrhea, sickness, and inflammation.

In the past, rose water was used in traditional Iranian medicine to treat rheumatic heart disease, to strengthen gastric nerves, and to treat some forms of headache and sickness.

 
 
Persian Wedding Spread (Sofreh Aghd)
Like many other Iranian occasions, the Persian wedding ceremony is one with deep ties to the ancient Zoroastrian culture. The wedding occurs in two stages; the first part being the “Aghd”, which is the legal process of getting married, followed by the “Jashn-e-Aroosi”or reception. 

Traditionally, the “Aghd” takes place in a beautifully decorated room in the bride’s family home or other venue in front of a “Sofreh Aghd,” which is an exquisite spread laid out on the floor, or a short table or stage containing many symbolic items. 

Because the Sofreh is such an essential part of the Persian wedding, it is important to find and meet with the right designer who can create the perfect Sofreh. By looking at the profiles of Party Bravo!’s Sofreh Aghd designers, brides can see some pictures of each stylist’s creation and determine which can help her create the wedding Sofreh of her dreams. 

Traditionally, the Sofreh is made of luxurious fabrics such as silk and “Termeh”, a rich hand embroidered fabric originally made with cashmere. The collection of items on the Sofreh varies based on the Sofreh’s designer, the couple, and their likes and dislikes. However, there are several significant items which are found in almost all Sofrehs for their symbolic meaning. These items include:

Mirror & Candelabras:  A mirror called “Aayeneh-ye-Bakht” or the mirror of fate and two candelabras on either side of the mirror. These items are symbols for light and fire; two crucial elements in the Zoroastrian culture.

Holy Book: If the couple is religious, they will also have an opened Quran in the center of the spread. A prayer carpet is also placed in the center of the Sofreh to remind the couple of the importance of prayer in good times as well as hardships.

Colored Seeds: A tray containing colored “Esfand” which are seeds from an ancient plant are placed on the spread to ward off evil spirits and the evil eye. 

Nuts and Eggs: A basket of decorated shelled walnuts, almonds, pistachios and eggs are used to symbolize fertility.

Gold Coins: A bowl of gold coins is used to symbolize a future of wealth for the couple.

Pastries: An assortment of sweets symbolizes a sweet life for the newlyweds. These usually include “Noghl” which are sugar coated sliced almonds, “Baghlava,” a sweet flaky Persian pastry and other traditional Persian cookies. The pastries are then shared with the guests after the Aghd ceremony.

Bread: “Naneh-e-Sangak” which is a baked flatbread is decorated and placed on the Sofreh to symbolize prosperity for the couple’s life thereafter.

Fruit: A basket of heavenly fruits such as pomegranates and apples are used to symbolize the divine creation of mankind.

Rose Water: A cup of rose water called “Gol-ab” is also on the spread to perfume the air during the ceremony.

Honey: A cup of honey to sweeten the life of the couple.  This honey is  used in the ceremony when the bride and groom dip their pinky fingers in it and feed it to one another. 

Silk: A silk veil-like piece of fabric is held over the couples’
heads by their female relatives throughout the Aghd ceremony. 

Sugar Cones:  Two whole sugar cones called “Khaleh Ghand” are used during the ceremony.  The cones are grinded together over the silk fabric over the bride and grooms heads throughout the ceremony by close female friends and family members; further symbolizing sweetness and happiness. 

In addition to all the items listed, Sofreh is lavishly decorated with fresh flower arrangements that match the wedding’s theme and color, further giving the bride and groom the opportunity to customize it to match their taste and style.  To find a Sofreh Aghd designer or to see pictures of real Sofrehs, please view Party Bravo!’s “Sofreh Aghd” vendor profiles. 

 
 

Ramadan

Ramadan (Arabic: رمضانRamaḍān, IPA: [rɑmɑˈdˤɑːn]; Persian: Ramazān; Urdu: Ramzān; Turkish: Ramazan) is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar; Muslims worldwide observe this as a month of fasting.This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon, according to numerous biographical accounts compiled in hadiths. The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root ramida or ar-ramad, which means scorching heat or dryness. Fasting is fardh (obligatory) for adult Muslims, except those who are ill, travelling, pregnant, diabetic or going through menstrual bleeding.

While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual relations; in some interpretations they also refrain from swearing.According to Islam, the thawab (rewards) of fasting are many, but in this month they are believed to be multiplied. Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan typically includes the increased offering of salat (prayers) and recitation of the Quran.

In the Quran

The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.

Thus, according to the Quran, Muhammad first received revelations in the lunar month of Ramadan. Therefore, the month of Ramadan is considered to be the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, the recording of which began with the Hijra.

Beginning of Ramadan

Hilāl (the crescent) is typically a day (or more) after the astronomical new moon. Since the new moon marks the beginning of the new month, Muslims can usually safely estimate the beginning of Ramadan. However, to many Muslims, this is not in accordance with authenticated Hadiths stating that visual confirmation per region is recommended. The consistent variations of a day have existed since the time of Muhammad.

Practices during Ramadan

Fasting

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).

It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, illness, older age, pregnancy, and breast-feeding. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, and healthcare professionals must work with their patients to reach common ground. Professionals should closely monitor individuals who decide to persist with fasting.

While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Those who are unable to fast are obliged to make up for it. According to the Quran, those ill or traveling (musaafir) are exempt from obligation, but still must make up the days missed later on.

Suhoor and Iftar

Each day before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, the Fajr prayer. At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar.

Considering the high diversity of the global Muslim population, it is impossible to describe typical suhoor or iftar meals. Suhoor can be leftovers from the previous night's dinner (iftar), typical breakfast foods, or ethnic foods.

In the evening, some dates are usually the first foods to break the fast; according to tradition, Muhammad broke fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.

Social gatherings, many times buffet style, at iftar are frequent, and traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, especially those made only during Ramadan. Water is usually the beverage of choice, but juice and milk are also consumed. Soft drinks and caffeinated beverages are consumed to a lesser extent.

In the Middle East, the iftar meal consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers, one or more entrees, and dessert. Typical entrees are "lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf". A rich dessert such as baklava or kunafeh ("a buttery, syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese") concludes the meal.

Over time, iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at masjid or banquet halls for 100 or more diners.

Charity

Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadan. Zakat, often translated as "the poor-rate", is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam; a fixed percentage is required to be given to the poor of the person's savings. Sadaqa is voluntary charity in given above and beyond what is required from the obligation of Zakat. In Islam all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a larger portion, if not all, of the Zakat for which they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of sadaqa in order to maximize the reward that will await them on the Day of Judgment.

In many Muslim countries, it is a common sight to see people giving more food to the poor and the homeless, and even to see large public areas for the poor to come and break their fast. It is said that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast, without diminishing the reward that the fasting person got for their fast.

Increased prayer and recitation of the Quran

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (Juz', which is 1/30 of the Quran) is recited. Therefore, the entire Quran would be completed at the end of the month. Although it is not required to read the whole Quran in the Salatul Tarawih prayers, it is common.

Laylat al-Qadr

Sometimes referred to as "the night of power" or 'the night of decree", Laylat al-Qadr is considered the most holy night of the year. This is the night in which Muslims believe the first revelation of the Quran was sent down to Muhammad stating that this night was "better than one thousand months [of proper worship], as stated in Chapter 97:3 of the Qu'ran.

Also, generally, Laylat al-Qadr is believed to have occurred on an odd-numbered night during the last 10 days of Ramadan, i.e., the night of the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th.

End of Ramadan

Eid ul-Fitr

The Muslim holiday of Eid ul-Fitr (Arabic: عيد الفطر, "festivity of breaking the fast"), sometimes spelled in English as Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions. This first day of Shawwal is called Eid ul-Fitr. Eid Ul-Fitr may also be a reference towards the festive nature of having endured the month of fasting successfully and returning to the more natural disposition (fitra) of being able to eat, drink and resume intimacy with spouses during the day.

For the manner in which the Eid is celebrated, see Eid ul-Fitr and Salat al Eid.

 
 

Suri celebration or Chaharshanbe Suri

Today, Iranian people hold Chaharshanbe Suri in different ways. While every region celebrates it in its own way, they are all totally different from the original ceremony. It could be argued that in larger cities the original customs of the Suri celebration are about to be forgotten and the new forms bear little resemblance to the original celebration. However, there are still links between Chaharshanbe Suri and the ancient Suri celebration in some counties, small towns and villages. Research hasn’t found any historical evidence about the exact day on which the Suri celebration was held in ancient times, and it’s unlikely the celebration was nominated for a particular day as the Iranian calendar didn’t consist of a seven day week. The calendar that is used today in which each month is divided into four seven-day weeks was adopted when Arab tribes attacked Iran. Before that Iranian months were divided into five five-week days which were called Panja and they were like the division used in ancient Egypt and Babylon. The ancient Iranian calendar included twelve months of thirty days. There was no month with thirty one days but in the leap year there were five more days inspired by the names of Gathas called Panja, khashma, Panjeya Dozdida, Khamseya Mostaregha, Gah, and Andargah, Yahizak, Panja va. So in ancient Iran the Suri celebration could not have been on Wednesday night because there was no Saturday, Wednesday or Friday.

Chahar Shanbeh Soori

One of the symbolic rituals of the Noe-Rooz celebrations occurs on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year (Chahar Shanbeh Soori, literally meaning "the eve of Red Wednesday" or "the eve of celebration"). On this magical night, families gather piles of brush or wood and bonfires are lit in public places. They then leap over the flames shouting:

"Sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to!"

"Give me your vibrant red hue, and take back my sickly yellow pallor!"

The essence of this tradition is giving thanks for the previous year's health and happiness, while exchanging any remaining paleness and evil with the warmth and vibrancy of the fire.

According to tradition, the living are visited by the spirit of their ancestors on the last days of the year, and many children wrap themselves in shrouds, symbolically re-enacting the visits. They also run through the streets banging on pots and pans with spoons and knocking on doors to ask for treats. The ritual is called qashogh-zany (spoon beating) and symbolizes the beating out of the last unlucky Wednesday of the year. This could be seen as the Iranian version of the Western Halloween night.

There are also several other traditions on this night including:

  • The ritual of Koozeh Shekastan - the breaking of earthen jars which symbolically hold ones bad fortune.

  • The ritual of Fal-Goosh - interpreting ones fortune by secretly listening to conversations of passersby.

The ritual of Gereh-gosha-ee - making a knot in the corner of a handkerchief or garment and asking the first passerby to unravel it in order to remove ones misfortune.
 
 
 





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