Fifty days after the ancient holiday of Sadeh, the feast of Know Rooz is celebrated in Iranian culture. Know Rooz is perhaps the most celebrated Iranian holiday. It is observed on the first day of spring, which coincides with March 20 or 21. All Iranians participate in this celebration regardless of their religious beliefs. This holiday, which is in honor of spring, symbolizes rebirth and renewal and thus appropriately marks the Iranian New Year. It can last anywhere from 14 days (first 2 weeks of Farvardin, the first month of Iranian calendar) to 20 days (from Chaar Shanbeh Souri in Esfand, the last month of Iranian calendar, to the end of 13-Bedar, the 13th day of Farvardin).
In Persian Mythology: The celebration of Know Rooz has its roots in Ancient Iran, and various foundation myths exist for Know Rooz in Iranian mythology. According to the epic book of Shahnameh, the tradition of Know Rooz was created by legendary King Jamshid. After a series of harsh and severe winters, King Jamshid celebrated the arrival of spring for his people, the Iranians, with great abundance and joy and thus the celebration of Know Rooz became an annual event. It is said that King Jamshid’s rule which lasted for several hundred years, was a glorious one of prosperity and happiness. Know Rooz did not end with Jamshid’s passing, but rather was strengthened through the centuries to become the all encompassing and glorious celebration of rebirth and renewal that it is today.
In Different Faiths: In the Zoroastrian tradition, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the six seasonal festivals named as the feasts of proper season (in Persian: Gahambar- haa or Gahanbaran) and Know Rooz. The late Professor Mary Boyce (1920-2006) who was a British scholar of Persian language and a recognized authority on Zoroastrianism noted that, "It seems a reasonable surmise that Know Rooz, the holiest of all the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals, was founded by Zoroaster himself”.
The Jewish festival of Purim is probably adopted from the Iranian New Year of Know Rooz. It should be noted that Purim is a festival that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people living throughout the ancient Persian Empire. Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar or it is celebrated on the 15th day of a month known as Shushan Purim. Know Rooz is also a holy day for Ismaili Muslims, Alawites (The prominent minority religious group in Syria), Alevis (The Turkish religious sect), and some other faiths.
In Scientific Records: The famous Iranian scientist and historian Abu Rayhan Biruni (973- 1048) in his book of Understanding Astrology (in Persian and Arabic: Ketaab-e Tafhim va Sanaa at-e Tanjeem) provides a description of the Calendars of various groups of people such as Persians, Arabs, Jews, Greeks and others. In the section on the Persian Calendar, he mentions Know Rooz, Sadeh, Tiregan, Mehregan, Gahanbaran, Farvardegaan, Spendarmaz and several other festivals. As Abu Rayhan Biruni noted, “It is the belief of the Persian people that Know Rooz marks the first day when the universe started its motion”.
Sites of Observances: Know Rooz is principally observed and celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. It is also observed in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Caucasus, Crimea, Georgia, India, Iraq, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Pakistan, Serbia, Syria, Uzbekistan, and many other parts of the world.
On the List of Recognitions: It is most likely that due to the refreshing and inspiring moments of the first day of spring or Know Rooz, March 21 has been named as the World Poetry Day since 1999. The naming was declared by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and to give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements. On the occasion of World Poetry Day enjoy a few moments of the feast of Iranian New Year reading some poetry as presented in the Chain of Poems on Know Rooz (in Persian & English).
During the meeting of the Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September and 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Know Rooz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Later, the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 recognized March 21 as the International Day of Know Rooz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3000 years. And just recently, on 15 March 2010 the United States House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution by which it recognized the cultural and historical significance of Know Rooz.
Enjoy every moments of this great holiday, and as an Irish blessing says, “May your pocket be heavy and your heart be light. May good luck pursue you each morning and night. May the Lord keep you in His Hand and never close His Fist too tight”.
Happy Know Rooz!
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
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