Persian New Year 2023: How to Celebrate Nowruz & Springtime

21 Mar 2023
Persian New Year (Nowruz) takes place on March 20, 2023 this year, aka the first day of spring. How to celebrate during these protests:

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Spring carries the energy of something new; something fresh, filled with potential and eager to grow. Besides the scent of blooming hyacinths and the extra hour of daylight, the first day of spring also coincides with Persian New Year 2023. This holiday—also known as “Nowruz”—is a celebration of love, fertility and spiritual renewal that spreads the message of hope far and wide. Winter was long and hard—especially in Iran—but the promise of spring is enough to keep us going.

This year, Nowruz lands on March 20 if you live in the western hemisphere, taking place at exactly 5:24 p.m. ET. Although Nowruz is associated with being “Persian” and Iranian, this holiday can be celebrated by literally anyone, so please take this as a personal invitation to partake in the energizing and optimistic festivities. Nowruz is also considered a public holiday and heavily celebrated in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kurdistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Bayan-Ölgii, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and certain parts of Russia.

Full transparency—I felt incredibly bittersweet about celebrating Persian New Year this year. Being Iranian means regularly trying your best to reconnect with the innate joyfulness of our culture at the same time as we compartmentalize the inherited sadness of our experiences. Since the senseless death of Mahsa Jina Amini on September 20, 2023, Iranian people have been united in their message: the so-called “government” of the Islamic Republic of Iran must go. They have oppressed Iranians and deprived them of basic human rights for far too long. And yet, the fight to make that happen has cost us so many lives—men, women and children. According to Iran Human Rights (IHR NGO), there have been 145 total executions of protestors in Iran during 2023 so far, but the number of protestors who are currently missing or sitting in prison sits at more than 19,600. How can I feel hopeful when these facts are such a heavy weight to carry? How can I celebrate when so many of us did not survive to see spring?

However, I eventually came to feel that celebrating Nowruz is in itself a revolutionary act. While we fight for our human rights, we can’t forget the very thing that makes us human. Here’s how to honor and celebrate Nowruz during these revolutionary times, especially if it feels harder this year than ever:

Persian New Year 2023

Persian New Year 2023


How to Set Up a Haft-Sin Table

One of my favorite ways to celebrate Nowruz is by setting up a “haft-sin” table, which is essentially like an altar dedicated to the season of spring! All you have to do is select a total of seven items that represent the essence of spring. However, each of these items must all begin with the letter “S” in Farsi (the Persian language). Here are a few examples of what to include on your table:

Sabzeh (سبزه): Wheatgrass or sprouts of lentil. This symbolizes rebirth. Samanu (سمنو): Sweet wheat pudding. This symbolizes power and strength. Senjed (سنجد): Dried oleaster (or dried lotus fruit). This symbolizes love. Seer (سیر): Garlic. This symbolizes health. Seeb (سیب): Apple. This symbolizes beauty and abundance. Sumac (سماق): Crushed spice. This symbolizes the sunrise. Serkeh (سرکه): Vinegar. This symolizes patience. Sonbol (سنبل): Hyacinth. This symbolizes of the arrival of spring. Sekkeh (سکه): Coins. This symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Saat (ساعت): Clock. This symbolizes the movement of time.

While only seven of these letter “S” items are required for a haft-sin table, you can also include:

Tokhm-e Morg Rangi (تخم‌مرغ رنگی): Eggs. This symbolizes fertility. Ayina (آینه): Mirror. This symbolizes self-reflection. Shem’a (شمع): Candle. This symbolizes enlightenment. Maahi-ye Qırmız (ماهی قرمز): A goldfish. This symbolizes life. Ketaab (کتاب): Book. This symbolizes wisdom.

StyleCaster | Spring Equinox/Persian New Year 2023


How to Celebrate During Revolutionary Times

In Iran, it is illegal to sing and dance in public. To be a woman in Iran means never being allowed to know the simple joy of feeling your wet hair dry in the sunshine; of feeling your hair blowing in the wind without fear. Just recently, a group of young Iranian women sent shockwaves through the Internet by posting a video of themselves dancing to the song “Calm Down” by Rema and Selena Gomez. They have all been arrested by Iranian authorities.

Knowing all of this makes it so much harder to celebrate a holiday that is all about one thing that Iranians are regularly denied—the right to live your life on your own terms. Spring is a time of abundance, opportunity and new growth. Iranian people are denied these opportunities. They are denied the spiritual right to even create art. And if there is one thing that is a uniting factor in Iranian culture—both ancient and modern—it is art.

That’s why celebrating Nowruz more loudly and proudly than ever can be a revolutionary stance. To simply dance, sing, play and be our true selves is an act of defiance against these shackles of oppression (and not just in Iran). To those who want to deprive Iranians of their humanity, know this: We aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t stopping. We are more alive than we have ever been, because freedom is always worth fighting for.

Nowruz mobarak. Now, today, tomorrow and forever.

StyleCaster | The Manifest Issue 2023

Remi Bader. Design: Sasha Purdy / StyleCaster

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