What is Nowruz, and why is it celebrated?

what is nowruz and why it is celebrated

Nowruz is one of the oldest and most widely celebrated festivals worldwide. Its tradition is full of stories and rituals. So most probably you have heard of Nowruz, but what is Nowruz, and why is it celebrated?

Join me to discover the Nowruz celebrations’ meanings, origins, and stories.

What is the Nowruz?

Nowruz Feast or simply Nowruz is a traditional New Year or spring festival celebrated by various peoples worldwide.

Nowruz includes celebration traditions associated with the four elements (water, fire, wind, and earth), symbolizing the stages of creation.

Particular importance is given to the last four Wednesdays before Nowruz, especially in Azerbaijani culture.

It is believed that on Wednesdays in general, and especially on these last four Wednesdays, one should be careful at night and not disrespect nature (nature spirits).

What does Nowruz mean?

The word’s origin comes from the old Persian: Nava means new and rəzaŋh, meaning daylight/day combined.

It means “new day/daylight” and is still used in the same sense in today’s Persian. (nev: new + ruz: day; meaning “new day”)

Is Nowruz a religious holiday?

According to the Iranian and Bahai calendars, it represents the first day of the year. Therefore, it is celebrated as a festival in modern-day Iran, although it has no Islamic origin.

It is also a holy day for Zoroastrianism, as well as for Baha’is, and is celebrated as a holiday.

Nowruz, which was also celebrated in the Mevlevi in ​​Anatolia, was honored with a prayer consisting of seven verses that started with the word “greetings”: “O keeper of night and day, O changer of eyes and hearts, O changer of power and mood! Change our state to the most beautiful!”.

Bektashis, on the other hand, would gather in dervish lodges, perform cem rituals and begin with prayers. And these prayers were usually on morality and spiritual cleansing. Everyone offered milk after the prayer phase, and “Nevruziyeler” was read.

In many places in Anatolia, Nowruz was celebrated with prostration and faith in Allah.

Entertainments are organized in different areas; houses are cleaned, feasts are held, the offended make peace, criminals are forgiven.

Nowruz explained

Nowruz is the first day of spring, and this day is the day of the spring equinox (equality of days) in the northern hemisphere.

The sun is at right angles to the equator, equalizing day and night.

Also, both the north and south poles are on the sunrise line simultaneously, and daylight is shared equally between both hemispheres.

Astrologically, March 21 is the starting day of the sign of Aries, which is the first in the zodiac.

Nowruz Persian new year

The definition of Nowruz given by the Iranian scientist Tusi was the following: “the first day of the official New Year [Nowruz] was always the day on which the sun entered Aries before noon.”

Nowruz is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar.

Nowruz also called

Nowruz is also celebrated in other Turkish states and communities. 

Nowruz also called as;

Novruz in Azerbaijan, Nawriz meyramı (Наурыз мейрамы) in Kazakhstan, Nooruz (Нооруз) in Kyrgyzstan, March nine in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Navrez in the Crimean Turks, Mevris in the Western Thrace Turks.

In Persian it is Nouruz.

Nowruz, which is celebrated as Navrız meyrami in Kazakhstan (Наурыз мейрамы), is called Sultan Nevruz in Albania.

What is the Nowruz festival?

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly declared this festival of Persian origin, celebrated for 3000 years, as World Nowruz Day and included it in the World Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Starting from 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognizes March 21 as the “World Nowruz Day.”

What is Nowruz in Shia?

In addition to the Ismailis and the Alevis, the Shiite Twelvers also highly value Nowruz Day.

It is said that Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shiite Twelver Imam, declared Nowruz and said:

“In Nowruz, God made a covenant with His servants to worship Him and not to allow any partner for Him. 

To welcome His messengers and obey their rulings. 

This day is the first day that the fertile wind blew and the flowers on the earth appeared. 

The archangel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet, and it was the day that Abraham broke the idols. 

The day Prophet Muhammad held Ali on his shoulders to destroy the Quraishie’s idols in the house of God, the Kaaba.”

Musa al-Kadhim

Where did Nowruz originate? Who invented Nowruz?

The tradition of Nowruz dates back to the days just before the end of the last Ice Age, that is, 15,000 years ago. However, there is no evidence about this date.

The day of Nowruz has its origins in the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism.

According to Wikipedia;

Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world’s oldest continuously practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster.

It has a dualistic cosmology of good and evil within the framework of a monotheistic ontology and an eschatology that predicts the ultimate conquest of evil by good.

Zoroastrianism exalts an uncreated and benevolent deity of wisdom known as Ahura Mazda (lit. ‘Lord of Wisdom’) as its supreme being.

Historically, the unique features of Zoroastrianism, such as its monotheism, messianism, belief in free will and judgment after death, the conception of heaven, hell, angels, and demons, among other concepts, may have influenced other religious and philosophical systems, including the Abrahamic religions and Gnosticism, Northern Buddhism, and Greek philosophy.

According to Mary Boyce,

“The suggestion is that Nowruz, the holiest of festivals with deep doctrinal significance, was instituted by Zoroaster himself.”

However, there is no precise date for its origin.

In Zoroastrianism, the seven most important Zoroastrian festivals are the six Gahambar festivals and Nowruz, which occur at the vernal equinox. 

Persian King Jamshid represents the transition of Indo-Iranians from hunting to animal husbandry and settled life.

In those ages, the seasons were more vital in human life than today, and everything related to life was closely associated with the four seasons.

Having green plants in the spring after winter and cattle calving meant an excellent opportunity for humankind and the revival of abundance.

It is said that King Jamshid started these Nevruz celebrations in such a period.

According to Wikipedia again;

According to the Shāhnāma of the poet Firdausī, Jamshid was the fourth king of the world. 

“He had command over all the angels and demons of the world and was both king and high priest of Hormozd (middle Persian for Ahura Mazda). 

He was responsible for a great many inventions that made life more secure for his people: the manufacture of armor and weapons, the weaving and dyeing of clothes of linen, silk, and wool, the building of houses of brick, the mining of jewels and precious metals, the making of perfumes and wine, the art of medicine, the navigation of the waters of the world in sailing ships. 

Traditional mythology also credits him with the invention of music.”

The Shahnameh attributes the founding of Nowruz to the mythical Iranian king Jamshid, who saves humankind from a winter that is said to kill all living things.

Jamshid built a throne studded with precious stones to defeat the deadly winter. 

He had demons lift it above the earth into the sky. There he sat and shone like the sun. 

The world’s creatures gathered scattered jewels around him and proclaimed that this was the New Day (Now Ruz). 

This was the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar.

In 487 BC, Darius the Great was celebrating Nowruz in his newly built palace in Persepolis.

Recent research shows that these celebrations have special meaning.

Only on the day of Nowruz, at 06.30 in the morning, the first rays of the sun coincided with the excellent reception hall in the observatory, and this event took place only once in 1400 years.

This also coincided with the Babylonian and Jewish new year, and so it is clear that these celebrations were considered very auspicious and important to ancient societies.

It is thought that the Persepolis campus, or at least the palace of Apadana, and the “Hall of One Hundred Columns” were built to celebrate Nowruz.

How old is Nowruz, and when did Nowruz start?

The records in which the term Nowruz first appears in history are records of the Persian Empire from the 2nd century B.C. 

However, there is information that various nations living under the Persian Empire brought gifts to the Persian Shah on the day of Nowruz much earlier (between about 648 and 330 B.C.).

What does Nowruz symbolize?

According to Biruni

“The Iranians believe that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion.”

Nowruz story

It is believed that the Nowruz feast is based on the Legend of Blacksmith Kawa in Kurdish and Iranian mythology.

In Anatolian and Central Asian Turkic peoples, the exit of the Göktürks from Ergenekon is celebrated as the arrival of spring.

Legend of Blacksmith Kawa

The story of the mythological hero who rebelled against the cruel ruler Dehak (Zuhak) in Iranian mythology.

The story is also included in the Shahnameh, the essential work of Persian poet Ferdowsi.

In the first legend, long ago, before humankind was on earth, the God named Zervan had two sons.

One of them was called Hormuz, meaning ‘blessed and radiant, and the other was Ahriman, meaning ‘spreading evil and famine.’

While Hormuz represented goodness in the lands on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris, which Ahura Mazda ascribed sacred, his brother Ahriman became the epitome of evil.

While Hormuz sent Zarathustra, whose heart was filled with love, to the world, he nevertheless gave his children as gifts.

Jealous of his brother, Ahriman decided to fight for good.

He began to persecute all the good and the descendants of Zarathustra.

He went further and commissioned the cruel King Dehak as his own man to torture the people of Assyria and Medes.

While the cruel Dehak was making the world narrow for his people, he fell to bed due to a disease in his brain.

While the cure for the disease could not be found, the physicians suggested that the brains of young people and children be rubbed into the wound to relieve and heal their pain.

Instead, the massacres of young people and children started all over the region.

Young people and children began to be forcibly taken from their families.

Their heads were cut off, and their brains rubbed into Dehak’s wound as an ointment.

When it comes to the children of the Med people, who are the ancestors of the Kurds in Ninowa, the youth and the death of the children left the people helpless and powerless.

When it comes to the youngest son of Blacksmith Kawa, who lost 17 of his sons in the previous days, the night that connected March 20 to March 21, he had a dreamy morning.

While Kawa was looking for a way to save his son, Hormuz, the representative of goodness, came to his rescue.

He filled Kawa’s heart with love, strength on his wrist, and intelligence on his mind.

On March 21, Kawa went to the palace to deliver his son to Dehak.

On his way out, he killed Dehak with his anvil.

Kawa, who started a revolt against the persecution, wore the green, yellow and red apron in the forge, the flag of the rebellion; He made the fire in his hearth a torch of freedom.

While the palace in Ninowa was burning, fires were lit in the mountains, and liberation was celebrated for days.

All communities that survived the cruel Dehak declared March 21 as Newroz, the festival of freedom and liberty.

Ergenekon Epic

During the reign of İl Han, a descendant of Oğuz Han, in the Mongolian province, the ruler of the Tatars, Sevinç Han, declared war on the Mongolian country.

He defeated the army under the rule of İl Han with the help of the Kyrgyz and other tribes. They killed everyone in Il Khan’s country.

Only İl Han’s younger son Kıyan, his wife Nüküz and his nephew managed to escape.

They decided to go to where the enemy could not find them.

They came to a narrow pass on a high mountain, following a path of wild sheep.

Passing through this pass, they came to a place where there were streams, springs, various plants, meadows, fruit trees, and various prey, and they thanked God and decided to stay here.

They named this place “Ergene Kon,” meaning “mineral place.”

The sons of Kıyan and Nüküz increased.

Four centuries later, they and their sons increased so much that they could not fit into Ergenekon.

The place of the gateway where his ancestors came from had been forgotten.

They looked for a pass in the mountains around Ergenekon.

A blacksmith said that if the iron part of the mountain was melted, a way could be made.

So they laid a row of wood and a row of coal where the iron was located and lit the fire.

They fanned all at once with seventy bellows, which they put on seventy places.

The iron melted, making enough room for a loaded camel to pass through.

There they saw a gray wolf. This wolf guided them to their homeland.

The Turks, who were descendants of Il Han, returned to their old homeland, getting stronger and avenging their ancestors.

They celebrated every year on March 21, the day they left Ergenekon.


Now that you are familiar with the meaning and importance of Nowruz, its origins, and its stories, it is time to learn more about Nowruz rituals.
Check this article below for more information:

Nowruz Rituals. How to Celebrate Nowruz?

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