The Nowruz spread (sofreh in Persian) in Zoroastrian homes has seven (haft in Persian) items beginning with the letter "sh" or "sheen". Therefore it called a haft-sheen spread or table. The seven items are:
- Sharab or wine
- Shakar or sugar
- Shir or milk
- Shireh or syrup
- Shahd or honey
- Shirini or candy
- Shir-berenj or rice-pudding (recipe)
The number seven represents:
- God and God's six abstract attributes or archangels.
- The seven aspects of temporal creation: fire, air, water, earth, plants, animals and human beings.
- The seven ethical concepts: a good mind and wisdom, truthfulness and righteous deeds, self-reliance and autonomy, peace and serenity, wholeness and excellence, perseverance and steadfastness.
- The seven acts of piety: generosity of the spirit and speaking well of others, material generosity and sharing, selfless help towards those in need, community participation and inclusion (through supporting the gahambars), honesty, piety, remembrance of the souls (specifically the fravashis) of the righteous and one's ancestors.
- The seven features of Nowruz: renewed and reaffirmed commitment to personal goals grounded in goodness, renewed energy and a positive cheerful disposition, renewed positive relationships, cleanliness and good health, honour and care for the environment, and preserving the eternal spiritual flame.
Another example of an Haft Seen table
in a Zoroastrian home
Additional items that are frequently seen on the Nowruz spread are a book of scripture, a portrait of Zarathushtra, a mirror, rose-water, candles or oil lamps, a fire chalice, a fish bowl containing gold fish, sprouted wheat or greens, various grains, flowers, fruits, coins, bread, a cone made from sugar, and painted boiled eggs similar to Easter eggs.
Some households place a sace or ses on the Nowruz table. A sace (seen here on the right) consists of a metallic tray, made from stainless steel, EPNS (German silver) or silver, and matching accessories such as a fire chalice or oil lamp, a container with a long neck for rose water, and a cone for rock-sugar. The sace and its accessories can be exquisitely crafted and are often part of a family heirloom.
An important part of the Nowruz table is a source of fire: a fire chalice, candles or an oil lamp. Fire represents core Zoroastrian values based on goodness and honesty (similar to the Olympic flame).
The sofreh is a white table-cloth or linen sheet, white being the Zoroastrian symbol for purity. The other items represent the bounty of creation and the joy of a good, meaningful life.
Pomegranate with inserted coins
The occasional spread may even contain a pomegranate fruit with coins inserted as a symbol for prosperity, longevity and good health in the New Year (see photo on the right). The pomegranate tree and its fruit have special significance in Zoroastrian rituals and ancient health practices. (For more information, see our pages on Haoma and the Baresman.)
The Nowruz Spread or Sofreh in Islamic Homes
Since Muslims are not permitted to drink wine, they adapted the sofreh to a haft-seen sofreh, one that has seven items beginning with the letter "s" or "seen":
- serkeh or vinegar
- sir or garlic
- samanu a sweet paste or halwa
- seeb or apple
- senjed or sorb-tree berry
- sabzi or green herbs