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Nauroz celebrations begin

Updated March 21, 2014

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A traditional Nauroz table laden with food symbolising new life and nature’s bounty.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
A traditional Nauroz table laden with food symbolising new life and nature’s bounty.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Mr Noshir Irani checks the time on his wrist watch. “Is it time yet?” asks Mrs Dinaz Irani.

At 9.57pm on Thursday when the sun entered the sign of Aries to begin a fresh round of the zodiac it was time for celebration and greetings. The celebration is also a salute to spring equinox. Happy Nauroz!

“And another year begins,” says Mrs Irani, who has been carrying on with the tradition of setting a beautiful table for Nauroz at this time of the year come rain or shine. “God bless you, God bless our home and our country. May there be peace in our country. We really need peace in our country,” she says while sprinkling rose water on Mr Irani and her guests.

“We usher in the new year by lighting a candle and a dia and wishing and showing each other the mirror. You are to smile at your reflection so that you keep smiling the whole year round,” she says while speaking to Dawn on Thursday night. “Along with this we lay the table that’s laden with fruit, vegetables, lentils, dried fruit, painted boiled eggs and little bottles of sherbet, vinegar, etc. The idea is to have everything so that you have the same throughout the year. The table will be set for 13 days and everyone is welcome to come and help themselves to the offering, which we’ll keep on replacing throughout this time,” she adds.

A little white fish made of sweetmeat is also present on the table. “Traditionally, we have a gold fish in a bowl but we have replaced that with this as we cannot see the fish suffer for two weeks in a small bowl,” Mrs Irani laughs.

“You can set the table and carry on with the tradition in a big way or small way but once you start doing it you cannot give it up and are supposed to carry on with the tradition every year at this time. Last year, I was unwell so even though I couldn’t have an open house for my guests like I do every year, I still did set the table. The only time when you can opt out of it is when travelling and with no one at home left behind to do it. But I have always taken care to never travel during this month,” Mrs Irani explains.

Preparation for Nauroz starts days ahead. “For instance, we also have this tradition of growing wheat in a platter 10 days before the festival. We start by leaving the seeds in a wet muslin cloth or cotton wool that is sprinkled with water occasionally as the roots and shoots grow. On the 13th day of Nauroz we leave it in flowing water or the sea. And just hours before the celebration kicks off, the children in the house get busy painting the eggs,” she says.

“These traditions are usually followed by the original Parsis, meaning those who originate from Iran,” she adds.


Seven basic items


According to Iranian tradition, the table is decorated with at least seven basic items all starting with ‘S’ that symbolise different concepts for spring and the New Year. There is a sweet pudding called samanu made from wheat germ that symbolises affluence, a sort of dried fruit called senjed in Persian that is symbolic of love, garlic or seer that symbolises medicine, saib (apples) for health spinkled with oregano, sirka (vinegar) symbolising age and patience, sekah (coins) that symbolises wealth.

Meanwhile, there is also Tushna J. Dubash, a modern young Parsi girl, who celebrates with her family with a scrumptious dinner. “Nauroz is a time to eat, drink and be merry,” Ms Dubash says.

“We have a nice get-together where we go out for dinner with family and friends,” she shares.

“This is not just a Parsi tradition,” says Mrs Kamal, who also sets a table at her place every Nauroz. “It is also observed by Ismailis all over the world and the people in Afghanistan and Central Asia, too,” she says.