Celebrate Nowrouz & the Spring Equinox

To celebrate the upcoming Spring Equinox, TAS is sponsoring the 3rd Spring Equinox Festival, also known as JikJik III, happening this Saturday, March 12 at the Centre for Social Innovation Lounge in the Annex.

The festival brings together a spring market, featuring artists, craftspersons, designers, makers and food artisans; homemade artisan foods insprised by traditional persian cuisine and spring; music and activities for the whole family.

In honor of the upcoming celebration, I sat down with Maryam Hatami, who celebrates this special time each year.

What is the Spring Equinox, and what does it signify?

The Spring Equinox is marked by the Sun crossing the plane of Earth’s equator, making the length of day and night equal.  This happens twice per year, once in March and again in September.  In Iranian culture, the March Equinox is the beginning of the New Year.  It signifies the rebirth of the Earth.  We call it Nowrouz, which means the New Day.

Is the Spring Equinox celebrated around the world?  How is it celebrated?

A few Eastern and Middle Eastern countries celebrate this day as their New Year, but I haven’t heard of any Western countries celebrating it the same way.

In Iran, the celebration is mostly family oriented, and the celebration starts way before the day itself.  The tradition is to clean the house from top to bottom, every single inch and hole to make sure everything is clean and ready for the New Year.  This tradition is done to wash off and rid the house of the dirt and darkness of the previous year, starting fresh and happy. On the day of the New Year, every single person must wash themselves, wear at least one piece of new clothing (if not a whole new outfit), and gather around the table, enjoying family and good food.

Since the exact time of the Spring Equinox changes from year to year, sometimes the meal is at lunch or dinner, but the celebration can even fall in the middle of the night.  If the celebration is in the middle of the night, usually we serve rice with herbs and fish the night before.  Then close to the actual time of the Equinox (or the New Year), everyone gets ready, wears their new clothes, and gathers around another table that has been arranged in a very specific way, with very specific items, called Haftseen.  This arrangement of items is very similar to a Christmas tree – there is no Christmas without a Christmas tree. There is no Nowrouz with no Haftseen.

We usually have the radio on to hear the exact time of the New Year, as it can come down to seconds – for instance, this year it is on Sunday, March 20th at 12:30:21 am.  Once the radio announces the New Year, we kiss, celebrate and exchange gifts.

Why does the Spring Equinox change every year, and how are we able to predict it?

March 21st is known as the Spring Equinox but it can vary between March 19th and 21st.  Because of the leap year, this year is falls on March 20th.

The March Equinox would occur on the same day every year if the Earth took exactly 365 days to make a complete revolution around the Sun.  In reality, it takes the Earth about 365.25 days on average to go around the sun, meaning the time varies year to year.

Is there anything special about this year’s Spring Equinox?

In Iran, Saturday is the first day of the week (Thursday and Friday is the weekend), and this year, the first day of our New Year, which is also the first day of Spring, falls on the first day of the week.  We consider that good luck, and predicts a fortunate year is ahead of us.

Join us to celebrate the Spring Equinox this Saturday at CSI Annex, find out more about the event and how to purchase tickets here.