March 20, 2013 is Norooz, the first day of Persian calendar and thus celebrated. The celebration of Norooz is held in the first day of spring which usually starts in Iran on March 21. New Year starts in Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, a part of China, and other Persian related cultures for thousands of years.
Norooz begins with blossoms of flower, beauty of environment, and the beginning of vitality for life. It is the time when the night and day become equal and the sun starts reviving the nature. Human behaviour starts its flourishing phase and life gains a new momentum. All in all, Norooz is a happy day to celebrate.
Norooz is one of the oldest ceremonies in the world. It has been celebrated at least for the last 3000 years by ancient Persians around a vast geography. It is believed that the idea is a reminder of the last ice age, ca 18 thousand years ago when icy winter was at its end and spring was expected to emerge warmth and life again.
Ancient Persians believed there is a constant fight between good (light) and evil (darkness), what ends with the victory of good over evil. This has given the belief that Noooz is a perfect time to fulfill human tasks by forgetting animosities and loving friends. In this day, children are given gifts, “Eidi”, old people are respected and family members visit each other.
Muslim invaders of the 7th and then their Islamic Caliphate attempted to abolish Persian “non-Islamic” ceremonies in favour of Islamic imposed values. The Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphs however allowed it again. Norooz resisted Islam, but had to accept compromises. In this light, the Koran was added to the “Haft Sin”, a set of tray containing 7 items starting with the Persian letter “S”, although the Koran dose not start in Persian with “S”. Another added item was golden fish, “Mahi” that neither starts with “S”: millions of these fish kept in fishbowls die after few days of ceremony. This unethical practice reminds us the feast of sacrifice when millions of sheep are ritually slaughtered by Muslims.
Contrary to many ceremonies, Norooz is not derived from religious or sacrificial rites. This is one of the reasons the Islamic regime has attempted in vain to disgrace Norooz. No wonder when Norooz happens in the Shiite mourning month of Muharam, fanatical Muslims attempt to mourn during Norooz. For them, Norooz serves Islam by mourning instead of celebrating.
During the Safavid Dynasty, Norooz became an established Shitte tradition, abundant with piety and belief, and special Shiite prays by Shiite prayers so that the ceremony takes the joy out of Norooz as joy does not comply with Islam. Norooz served the agenda of the dynasty that brutally imposed Shiite Islam as the State Religion.
Since its inception, the Islamic regime has been trying to extinguish all non-Islamic values and disgrace Norooz. Ayatollah Motahari, a late scholar of the Islamic regime, qualified the feast of “Charshanbeh suri”, the last Wednesday before Norooz, as the “legacy of your idiot ancestors”.
However, in the recent years, some opportunist factions within the Islamic regime have tactically withdrawn from suppressing Norooz. They spread the idea that on Norooz the Prophet Muhammad appointed Imam Ali, the first Imam of Shiits, as his inheritor or the Caliph of the Muslims – what is not approved by most Muslims. Through this alleged event, Norooz could be safeguarded as holy day. Also, based on the Islamic scholar Ali Shriati, a late propagandist of Islamic new despotism of “Imamat over Ummat”, Norooz “fortifies the love of Iranians for (Shiite) Islam”. Whatever the diversionary tactics of the regime and its theorists, Norooz remains a thorn in the eyes of the Islamic regime because it does not fit the rites and norms of Islam.
Today, Norooz as a non-Islamic day develops a new concept for Iranians. It does not only mean a revival of pre-Islamic culture, but also the ceremony of Norooz is implicitly a non-violent resistance against the Islamic establishment. In this perspective, the fact is that Norooz becomes more and more politicised.
Norooz resisted Islam when in the 7th century Muslims invaded Iran and resists today the Islamic regime. Despite all the ups and downs, Norooz keeps its genuine non-Islamic values and remains in the hearts and minds of most Iranians as a joyful festival and cultural heritage of pre-Islamic Iran.