Saal Tahvil: a quizz, a puzzle and a trick


Saal Tahvil: a quizz, a puzzle and a trick
by anglophile

In less than few hours from now we will experience one of the most beautiful moments in the life of earth and its inhabitants. This instant occurs once a year in the northern hemisphere and is called the Spring solstice (Autumn solstice in southern hemisphere),  Persians celebrate that one instant that heralds the beginning of the season of re-growth in nature, the Spring, and call it Saal Tahvil (year change). 

Saal Tavil is the moment when the old Persian solar year is changed to the new year. Unlike the Christian year that begins at  midnight at the end of the last day of December and therefore is a relative moment depending on where one lives in the world, the Persian new year begins at a time which is universally at the same moment all over the world. This brings us to the first set of question:

1. What does this time signify?

2. How is it calculated?

3. Why does it occur at the same instant around the globe?


4. Why does it change from year to year?

Every year Tehran university's Institute of Geophysics computes or as they say, 'extracts', this time for the nation. If the calculated time is before the real noon then the same day is declared as the first day of Farvardin and the first day of the new year. If the calculated time occurs after the real midday, then the next day is declared as the first day of the new year. 

There are a number of interesting phenomena attributed to the moemnt of Saal Tahvil which brings us to the puzzle:

5. What do the gold fish do in the instant of Saal Tahvil and why?

And now the trick: couple of minutes before the Saal Tahvil. pick up an egg and choose a wall or any medium sized mirror. Place the egg from its narrow or the wide end on the mirror and hold it vertically. At the moment of Saal Tahvil relax your hold on the eggg, and it should remain upright. It works believe me I have tried it. This brings us to the penultimate question:

6. Why does the egg in the above trick remains upright after Saal Tahvil.

7. How does Saadi describe Saal Tahvil?

The winner is whoever that answers most or all of the above questions correctly. The prize will be a surprise!

Noroozetan khosh baad



more from anglophile

Anglophile, I once searched for the painter of this ..........

by Mehrban on

painting, as it is a very dear image to me.  In anticipation of your justified inquiry, I have been searching the web since I left my comment but no link to Mirza Reza yet.  However, it is attributed to Kamal ol molk in couple of places.  

If you look under Kamal ol molk in Wiki, this painting does not appear in the list of his works, but I know Wiki is not the most reliable source.  

I will keep looking.   


Merban jan

by anglophile on

I am sure you have some evidence to support your belief. Could you kindly produce the supportive evidence?



by Mehrban on

I believe the above painting is not by Kamal-ol-molk but By Mirza Reza one of his students. 


Jenab_e Shahrvand

by anglophile on

Thank you for your interest and the corrective observation. You are absolutely right in saying that the correct term for this particular astronomical event is equinox (as I had used in the text of my comment). But in common literature the terms solstice is (unscientifically) used instead of equinox as a simple Google search would reveal. Solstice is used when the length of day or night are at its longest or shortest whichever way you prefer tp look at it whereas equinox refers to the instant that the day of and night are of equal length. 


Happy Autumn! 


Dear Mehrban

by anglophile on

Thank you for your interest in this blog.

The Haftsin painting by Kamal-ol-molk is among his most celebrated works. Absence of female members of the family may be explained by the religiously influenced gender segregation of that era but there is also something else missing from the Haftsin spread: goldfish! It is suggested that goldfish was not a Persian tradition but a Chinese one that was introduced to Iran as part of the tea trade with China some eighty years ago. In a Chinese new year festivity goldfish is released into a water stream as a symbol of freedom and growth whereas Iranians keep it in the confines of a glass water bowl or a jar which often ends its life prematurely. But whatever the reason behind goldfish being present in our present day Haftsin, it was not the tradition at the time of the great Kamalolmolk.


Happy Autumn! 


Vildemose jaan

by anglophile on

Mehrgan is the second most important of Persian celebrations. There are various accounts of when the celebrations should begin ranging from the first day of the month of Mehr to the sixteenth day of the same month (the more official date). Please see these related sites:





Happy Mehrgan! 



Winter and Summer Solstice

by shahrvand2 on

Spring and Fall Equinox


dear anglo: When does

by vildemose on

dear anglo: When does Mehregan celebration begin? 


All Oppression Creates a State of War--Simone De Beauvoir



by Mehrban on

I followed your Autumn solstice comment into this blog to find one of my favorite Iranian paintings (no women alas).  

Happy autumn. 


Autumn Solstice

by anglophile on

Today, 22 Spetember, is the autumn equinox, the day when the Summer ends and Autumn begins. Once again and for the second time in each year at some specific instant during the day the length of day and night becomes equal. That moment this year is 14:49 GMT.


May I wish you all a happy Autumn and thank each of you for your kind contributions to this blog since six months ago today. Our good friend Hamsade Ghadimi gave the best answers to the questions 1, 2 and 3. 

May God of the universe bless you all and Happy Autumn. 


Ari Siletz

Happy Nowrooz and great questions

by Ari Siletz on


I will contribute this video as to why fish jump on saal tahvil.The rest is eid didani chat.

 Regarding the egg, it just ain't so; you can balance an egg any time of the year with enough patience. It so happens that around Nowrooz we have more patience with good myths so more eggs get stood up.

Why does the equinox happen at a different time every year? Mostly 'cuz the Earth's rotation and her revolution around the Sun aren't gear-locked together. If the Earth went around the Sun every 365 days exactly, then there would be a 365:1 gear ratio and everything would neaty repeat. But the year is about 365 days plus an extra quarter of a day, more or less. So expect saal tahvil to be late by about 6 hours every year. For example, last year  saal tahvil in San Francisco happend at 4:21 PM. For 1391 it was at 10:14 PM (5 hours 53 minutes late). Next years saal tahvil action will be an early bird's club.

By way, the moment the sun pauses in the sky to change direction in it's very slow yearly north-south and back again motion, we've got equinox all over the world. The Sun's east-west motion, of course, does not pause or we would have mass panic instead of saal tahvil.

M. Saadat Noury

Happy New Year, Anglophile

by M. Saadat Noury on

Very thoughtful blog. Thanks for sharing.

hamsade ghadimi

anglo, noroozat eidoon

by hamsade ghadimi on

anglo, noroozat eidoon baad.

first of all, it's the spring equinox or vernal equinox and not solstice which answers your first question. 1) equinox (literally "equal night") meaning when the night and day become equal (e'tedaal shab va rooz), 2) to calculate the tahvil in the northern hemisphere, vernal equinox is calculated when the center of the sun crosses the celestial equator moving forward (i believe in greenwich standar time, or universal time). 3) refer to (2), 4) approximation issue, 5) because we have to go through the "fish month" (borj-e maahi, borj-e hoot, esfand, pisces) to get to farvardin (aries).

and here's my favorite saadi poem regarding norooz: //


Saal-e Nou Mobarak Mirza Taghi Khaan-e Gerami

by anglophile on


I hope you have a great year in 1391 and remember that even the British tried to intervene and save Amir's life but alas it was too late. Nouroozat Pirooz! 


Darius jan Nourooz Mobarak

by anglophile on

Wish you a very happy new year for you and hope to see more of your splendid blogs on this site.   Best wishes   Anglo!  


Happy Noruz anglophile

by amirkabear4u on

Thank you as this is a good blog for this time of year. Particularly so from some one who admires churchill.


Darius Kadivar

Happy Nowrooz Anglophile Jan ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on


عید همگی‌ مبارک


عید همگی‌ مبارک    

جناب "همه ایرانیان"
نوروز را به شما و به "همه ایرانیان" تبریک عرض کرده آرزوی سلامتی و پیروزی آن جناب را در همه امور از خداوند دارم.قطعه‌ای که از استاد سخن سعدی نقل فرمودید بس بدیع و زیباست است.  ولی‌ بنده نظرم بیت خاصی‌ است که در آتیه نزدیک خدمتتان تقدیم میدارم. با عرض احترام مجدد و با توسل به خداوندگار، مولانا جلال الدین رومی:

عید بر عاشقان مبارک باد

عاشقان عیدتان مبارک باد


جناب پرفسور دکتر استاد علا
با تشکر از حضورتان در این جمع برای شما و خانواده محترم سالی‌ خوش و پر بار آرزو کرده و امیدوارم از مراحم آن جناب بیشتر بهره مند شویم. ما را به گمنامی ببخشید که به قول خواجه:

از ننگ چه گویی که مرا نام ز ننگست

از نام چه پرسی‌ که مرا ننگ ز نامست

Mohammad Ala

Happy Nowruz. 

by Mohammad Ala on

Happy Nowruz.  Why not follow an acceptable spelling of Nowruz and stick to it? 

When we were children we tried the egg exercise and we saw fish face one way when sal-e tahvil elam shod.  When we were children we did not know why egg stood up, now it is easy to say it is because of pressure or passage of earth through certain points… sort of neroyeh ghoriz az markaz (for the lack of better terms). 

In shood vaghat bareyeh emtehan??  No more mahi-ghermez in my family and friends houses after I wrote an article as to why (the article is under my blogs.)

Ziad shirini nakhor k mariz meshee.  Nowadays I cannot also eat what I use to :-( 

Loftan jayezeh man ra b first b address-e: riasat mohtaram, Mehr 3, darab-e dovam, Dr. Professor Ala, Tehran, Iran.  Merci.


جناب انگلوفیل



عیدتان مبارک
در مورد سعدی و تحویل سال، ممکنست منظورتان ، بخشی از دیباچه گلستان باشد: "فرّاش باد صبا را گفته تا فرش زمرّدین بگسترد و دایه ی ابر بهاری را فرموده تا بنات نبات را در مهد زمین بپرورد درختان را به خلعت نوروزی قبای سبز ورق در بر کرده و اطفال شاخ را به قدوم موسم ربیع کلاه شکوفه بر سر نهاده عصاره نالی به قدرت او شهد فایق شده و تخم خرمایی به تربیتش نخل باسق گشته..."


And a very happy Norooz to you dear OY

by anglophile on

Thank you for your referal :)   Shad Bashid 

Oon Yaroo

Anglophile Gerami, happy Noruz!

by Oon Yaroo on

For the answers I refer you to the great Red Wine!