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Nowruz, Persian New Year Celebrations in Napier

Haft-seen, a traditional table setting that Iranians prepare during the Nowruz celebration, which represents fertility and new life (Photo Pexels)

Dr Malini Yugendran
Auckland, March 15, 2023

Nowruz is a holiday that marks the beginning of the year and the arrival of spring. It has been celebrated in Iran and the Persian diaspora for over 3,000 years and originated as a feast day in Zoroastrianism, which viewed the arrival of spring as a victory over darkness.

The holiday survived the Islamic conquest of Persia and the decline of Zoroastrianism’s popularity, and it spread across the globe through the diaspora of Persian people throughout history.

According to Mr Syed Khurram Iqbal, the only Muslim justice of the peace in Hawkes Bay who has been volunteering in Napier for the past five years, “over 300 million people worldwide celebrate the Persian New Year, including countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Albania, Iran, Iraq, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgyzstan.”

Napier Nowruz Event Poster (Photo Supplied)

The United Nations and Nowruz

International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday. Nowruz was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2009. The UN recognises 21 March as the International Day of Nowruz and invites member states, UN agencies, interested international and regional organisations, as well as non-governmental organisations, to participate in events organised by States where Nowruz is celebrated.

Mr Syed Khurram Iqbal, Engineering Manager by profession and the organiser of the Napier event (Photo Supplied)

Why Nowruz is Celebrated

Nowruz is an ancient cultural celebration known for its ability to foster cultural diversity and friendship among different communities. The customs and traditions of Nowruz reflect the ancient practices of both Eastern and Western civilisations, which have influenced each other through the exchange of human values.

Celebrating Nowruz involves affirming life in harmony with nature, recognising the link between constructive labour and the natural cycles of renewal, and adopting a respectful attitude towards natural sources of life. During this celebration, people come together with their families and friends to reflect on the past, celebrate new beginnings, and look forward to a brighter future.

Nowruz is celebrated on the vernal equinox, and people prepare for it by performing ritual dances and filling vessels in their homes with water to banish bad luck. Traditions include Charshanbe Suri, a night in which people jump over fire or go to doors banging spoons to scare away bad luck and visiting cemeteries bringing offerings for the dead. On the day of the holiday, households set up tables covered with seven symbolic items called haft-seen, which represent fertility and new life.

Nowruz in New Zealand

According to the 2018 census, there are 4,425 individuals of Iranian/Persian descent living in New Zealand.

This year, a group of almost 250 people in Napier will celebrate Nowruz, marking the first time the event is celebrated in the region.

Mr Iqbal said, “while the majority of Nowruz festivities typically take place in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland, the changing population in Napier has allowed for a larger community to come together to celebrate this milestone event, promoting relationships and community cohesion.” He further added, “Nowruz this is on March 21, 2023, and Ramadan begins on March 22, 2023, so we combined the two celebrations to entertain the larger Hawkes Bay community, with local MPs, mayors, councillors, and community leaders invited to enhance the regional multicultural plan.”

Those interested in participating in this festival may email: Pafhbai@gmail.com

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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