Festivals & Ceremonies
Nowruz (literally translated New Day) is one of the oldest celebrations in ancient Persia, which is held vigorously in the first day of spring marking the beginning of the Iranian calendar (21 March). Nowruz festivities celebrate the beginning of rebirth of nature and lasts for 13 consecutive days. Celebrated by millions of people in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikstan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Turkey, Nowruz is inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. The first universal festival of Nowruz was held in 2010 (March 27), in Tehran and the city introduced as the "Nowruz Secretariat". Nowruz includes the official holidays in some countries and in Iran the first four days are considered the official holidays but it continues to the 13th day in some organizations. Nowruz is celebrated practicing certain rituals such as spring cleaning, sprouting wheat or mung beans, buying new clothes, cooking local foods and baking sweets.
Families usually gather around the Haft-Seen table to celebrate the precise moment the Earth finished its annual journey around the Sun to celebrate the first day of spring. The Haft-Seen table contains seven edible items that their names begin with a letter in the Persian alphabet which is equivalent to “S” in English. It usually includes Seeb (apple), Sabze (green sprouts), Serke (vinegar), Samanoo (a delicacy made from wheat sprouts), Senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), Sumac, and Seer (garlic).
You may see a holy book, mirror (sign of sincerity), gold fish (sign of livelihood), candles (sign of light and bright), decorated eggs (sign of rebirth), and Divan-e Hafez on the table. Sabzi Polo with fried fish is served as the main course of most of Iranian families on Nowruz day.
Sizdah-Be-Dar (Nature day)
The 13th day of Farvardin has been named as Sizdah-Be-Dar or Nature Day in Iranian culture that is an ancient ritual and also it is one of the most important common and shared customs among Iranian tribes. This day is an official holiday in Iran. Iranians annually celebrate this day by coming the new year and spring season; spending 12 days of Nowruz holidays with picnicking outdoors in nature; Sizdah- Be-Dar ceremony is hold with many various methods and customs in different regions of the country. The 13 days of Nowruz holidays will end after this day and everything will return to routine form.
There are various analysis on the different reasons of Sizdah-Be-Dar genesis. The number of 13 was an unlucky number in mythological culture of ancient Iranian and many other nations; therefore, they believed that an unpleasant thing occurs in this day and because of that, they spend it outdoors, even for a short time and celebrate this day to save themselves from disasters caused by 13.
Today, no one accepts 13 as an unlucky number and people mostly believe that it is just a superstition. According to another belief, the 13th day of each month in ancient Iranian thirty-day calendar was related to the Tir or Tishtar angel (Rain Star) and it is a blessed and happy day.
Different ceremonies based on each region’s culture are common in Sizdah-Be-Dar such as game, sport, local match, wearing traditional clothes, playing music, local and group dance, eating the lettuce with Sekanjebin (one of the oldest Iranian drink), cooking local foods, different types of Ash and the other customs of Iranian tribes. The other part of Sizdah-Be-Dar rituals are originated from some mythological beliefs and cultures like "eavesdrop on conversations", Fortune-telling, the humorous custom of "Sizdah-Be-Dar’s lie" or knotting the green and throwing away the green which are common customs among Iranian in this day. Today, the ancient and original form of Sizdah –Be –Dar has been changed like many other Iranian rituals.
Pir-e Shaliyar Celebration
Uraman Takht had been a rural region, in the past, with an extraordinary and astonishing nature along with a particular architectural style in which a house's roof is the other house's courtyard. Holding many various rituals in this region led Uraman Takht to be considered a main part of Ancient Iranian culture which has been inscribed as one of the main tourism poles of Iran. The old ceremony of Pir-e Shaliyar, known also as "Pir-e Shaliyar Wedding" among locals, is a spiritual event of several thousands years history which is held two times in a year during three consecutive days.
The Urami Pir-e Shaliyar (OR Pir-e Shahriar), the saint of Sufis, is a highly respectable character among the Naqshbandy darvishes. According to a native legend, he was a physician with supernatural wonders (keramat) who cured the Bokhara King's daughter, Shah Bahaar Khatoon, and they got married after her healing. With this regard, the 45th day of spring, in the first half of the Ordibehesht, is celebrated with some special rituals on the occasion of Pir-e Shaliyar and the Princess wedding anniversary. The 45th day of the winter, i.e., the close Wednesday to the half of Bahman) is also celebrated for their son's birthday.
The proper day for holding the event is determined by its certain trustee. The ceremony begins in Tuesday with distribution of walnuts of waqf trees by children among Uraman locals and surrounding villages and then receiving some fruits and sweets instead of the given walnuts, all of which are known to be the "Kelav Rochneh" rite, the ceremony may continue to the next morning after the Adan. The participants' duty is in the Wednesday morning to sacrifice animals like cow, sheep and goat. The victim meats are distributed among locals and they cook a symbolic food named "vloshin". Darvishes and men dressed in their local cloths start to dance in a circle in front of the Shaliyar house; some plays daf and some others sing the traditional Kurdish songs and the group repeats some certain spiritual hymns.
The number of dancers is continuously increased in each turn. When excitement reached its peak, darvishes are separated from the main group, start their own particular faster dance, i.e., Sama', at the center of the main circle and their faces are obviously recognizable by their long hairs. The ceremony continues in Thursday morning in the form of a more private rite than in the previous days in which darvishes gather around the Pir-e Shalyar tomb and they perform dance, Sama', and play daf; the event will be more public in the afternoon after the beginning of dance.
The Sufism beliefs say that the women are neither permitted to be present and watch the Sama' performing event, nor they do not have to attract the darvishes' attentions and consequently distract them. People gather again around the tomb for worship and prayer in the Friday morning. In addition to dance and Sama', the final stage of the ceremony include the evening party in Pir-e Shaliyar house, circulating his leather shoes, eating a local golden bread known as "Kolireh Mozhge" with yogurt, installing some cloths on the walls, doors and trees. In spite of the fact that Pir-e Shalyar is an extremely olden ceremony, people still comes to Kurdistan from the surrounding cities to see the ritual in person. Locals are highly believed in him and bring their patients to the event in order them to be cured by Pir.
There are different times in a year some of which more important with a special grandeur due to the blessings and mercy of God and his effects on these times. One of these special times is Laylat al-Qadr in Islam which is the most valuable night in a year. The importance of this night has been described in holy Quran verses and an independent Sura with the name of “Al-Qadr” which has been revealed especially about this grandeur night.
The probable night of Al-Qadr in the Shia beliefs is one of the nights of 19th, 21st or 23rd of Ramadan and the Sunni communities believe in 27th night of Ramadan as Al-Qadr night.
The immediate reveal of the Quran Surah (in addition to the gradual reveal), the reveal of the angels and the soul of earth to convey the annual decree of humankind, the attack to the first Imam of Shia’ Ali ibn Abi Talib, in Mihrab while worshiping in the 19th night of Ramadan and his consequent martyrdom in the 21st night of Ramadan are the reasons to the increased importance of this night in Islam. The sins of Mulsim are forgiven in this extraordinary and exceptional night by God. Acts such as vigil, ghusl, prayer, reading Qur'an and prayer, vow and pray for forgiving the sins are recommended during this night. Divine blessings and the special mercy of God are revealed to humankind in these nights.
Eid al-Fitr, is one of the great and important Islamic event after the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims spent a month of fasting and refusing to eat and drink, and doing many mubah, with particular customs.
The first day of the month of Shawwal (the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendar) is variable based on the advent of the crescent of moon, according to the location of each Islamic country and this day is called Eid al-Fitr. Eid Al-Fitr holiday is two days in Iran.
This Eid is one of the spiritual events related to the beliefs of the people with the various culture and customs in accordance with the specific traditions of the region in each parts of Iran.
Eid al-Fitr is especially important in areas such as Khuzestan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Gilan, Sistan and Baluchestan, North Khorasan, Kerman, Yazd, Central, Kurdistan, Hormozgan and East Azarbaijan.
Eid al-Fitr prayer is one of the recommended prayers held as a congregational prayer in the morning of the Eid with certain ceremonies.
Eid al-Adha (Eid-e Ghorban)
Eid al-Adha is one of the great and important ceremonies of Muslims on the tenth day of Dhu al-Hijjah, which, unlike many Islamic ceremonies, has not been disputed and is considered to be the Eid for all Muslims.
The official holiday of Eid al-Adha in the Islamic calendar of the countries is from one to four days and people in different regions have different customs to do in this day but generally these ceremonies are the same.
Eid al-Adha in the commemoration of Abraham is celebrated by Muslims every year, in praise of him when he decided to sacrifice his son Ishmael purely to perform the divine command, and after he had passed the test by his willingness to carry out God's command, God gave them a sheep to be sacrificed instead of his son, Ismael.
According to the traditional customs of each region, the people starts to prepare for the celebration of Eid al- Adha by house cleaning, buying clothes and etc from several days before the Eid.
The preparations for the ceremony begin with purchase the victim's animal to sacrifice. On this day, People with every ethnicity and culture of different regions of Iran will go to the elders and the Hajji's houses to congratulate them after worship in Eid al-Adha prayer.
Ghadir Khom, the regional name in Saudi Arabia, was on the way to Mecca in Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), at the return of his last Hajj journey in March 632 (18th Dhu al-Hijjah), gathered all the Muslims who were with him in that place and declared "to whomsoever I am Mawla, Ali is also their Mawla."
There is a difference between Shia and Sunni in the interpretation of Ghadir Khom hadith.
The Shia believe that the Prophet named Ali Ibn Abi Talib as his brother, his successor on behalf of Allah Almighty on that day, although the Sunni narrators only interpreted this hadith as the proximity of the Prophet to Ali and his friendship with him and his request that Ali, as his cousin and stepson, is his successor in his family responsibilities after death.
Thus, the appointment anniversary of Imam Ali (AS) to the succession of the Prophet of Islam and the transfer of government to him is well known to be Eid Ghadir Khum in Muslim beliefs, and this day has been registered not only as a historical day but also as one of the Islamic, religious and official holidays in Iran.
Tasu'a & Ashura
The month of Muharram is the first Islamic month of the Islamic calender, one of the forbidden months of Muslims, in which the greatest tragedy and oppression in the Prophet's family occurred in the history of the Muslim world.
Ashura is one of the events attracted the most attention of Muslims throughout the history, that in addition to its extensive role and profound social and historical impact, it has become a special cultural event now.
The popularity of this day among Muslims is driven from the event of Ashura in the 61 AH, in view of the fact that the major events of Karbala occurred on the ninth and tenth day of the month of Muharram al-Haram; these two days became more prominent, with the names of Tasu'a ("Ta'sa" in Arabic means "Nine" and "Tasu'a" means "Ninth day"), and Ashura ("Ash" means 10th and Ashura, meaning 10th day).
During these days, Imam Hussein (AS), the third Imam of the Shias and seventy-two persons of his followers were martyred with a thirsty lip in the war with a the forces of Yazid in the event of Karbala.
This mourning is not a normal one, and is the greatest mourning happening in this month.
The official holiday of Tasu'a and Ashura is two days in Iranian calendar.
This general mourning begins by wearing the black clothes and blackening the streets, mosques, Husayniyah, etc., by mourning's flags.
After the Ashura, the mourning continues at different times even until the Safar month.
Agriculture is one of the sacred jobs that people in different regions have been busy with since past times. The celebration of Kharman (harvest) is a traditional, olden and lasting ceremony in northern Iran which is held at the end of the agricultural season after a period of planting and harvesting the products of wheat and rice paddy to eliminate farm workers fatigue in spring and summer in Mazandaran, Gilan and Golestan provinces since Qajar era.
This celebration is a symbol of the gratitude, friendship and cooperation of the people and a way to preserve and revive ancient traditions and native culture. Agricultural products harvesting by basic tools was very hard work so that it was being done in several stages by individuals and by using livestock such as horses and etc., in the past time. Traditional ceremony of Kharman (Harvesting) is done through symbolic performance of harvesting with traditional agricultural tools and implements.
Yalda Night (Chelleh night) is one of the most beautiful and longest nights of the year in Iran where the ceremonies and celebrations are held in different ways based on the special traditions of each region.
The word Yalda means birth, and the Yalda Night is one of the traditional ceremonies in Iran, which is held by Iranians coming together the family members and relatives in different parts of Iran.
The Iranians are celebrated the Yalda Night (the first day of winter), the time between the sunset of the last day of the autumn and the sunrise of the first day of winter which is coincided to the longest and the darkest night of the year in the northern hemisphere of the earth.
Various ceremonies are common in different regions and cities of Iran in this night such as eating special fruits like watermelon and pomegranates, nuts and sweets, cooking local food, reading Hafiz, horoscope, reading poetry, reading the Shahnameh, reading stories, etc., each of which has a symbolic aspect and they are the signs of Blessing, health, abundance and happiness.
Iran is an Islamic country owes its Islamic dimensions to the great revolution, known as the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1977 (1357 SH), which done by huge crowd participation of the public, Islamic characters, clerics, students, merchants, opposing political parties, intellectuals and etc., who expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation of the Imperial regime in many different ways as clashes, general strikes, street demonstrations and protests, from a long time ago.
The main root of Islamic Republic of Iran can be found in the 1953 coup (known in Iran as 28 Mordad coup) and its concurrent events; the cause of developing the Islamic movement can be counted as follows: absolute attachment to the West, specially to US, kings not authorized to make important decisions, corrupt and irreligious kings who tried to deceive the young, ignorance of the people's vote, confrontation with liberalism, pervasiveness of oppression and injustice supported by the government, scientific, industrial undeveloped and the lack of amenities.
Following this anti-royal revolution on February 11th (22nd of Bahman), the struggle of the Muslim people finally worked to the fore and the kingdom of Iran was overthrown and the setting for the coming of the Islamic Republic under the leadership of the Shiite cleric, Seyyed Rouhollah Khomeini, was provided.
The 10 days between February 1st (Bahman 12th) and February 11th (Bahman 22nd) of 1977 (1357) are called Fajr Decade; which Imam Khomeini entered to Iran after the fifteenth years of exile, and the greatest welcome in history took place from him in Tehran, and eventually the Pahlavi regime was extinct after more than 50 years of oppression and tyranny on February 23rd. After the triumph of revolution, a referendum was held on creating Islamic Republic in 28 July 1979; it was approved by 98.2% of eligible citizens.
On the occasion of this great victory, Iranian nation decorates the cities, streets and different areas with different decorative objects, flowers, the picture of Imam Khomeini and Sayyed Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and the flag of Islamic Republic of Iran during the Fajr decade every year. Iranians also celebrate this decade with performing revolutionary songs, holding various festivals as Fajr (the most extensive film, theatre and music festival in Iran), holding different ceremonies in governmental organizations and centers across the country. Schools start at 9:33 in 1 February, on the occasion of entering Imam Khomeini to Iran. Moreover, in February 11th, an official holiday, people hold a glorious rally in different cities, to celebrate this triumph.
The "Sadeh festival" is the largest fire celebration and one of the oldest known traditions in ancient Persia, which is celebrated forty days after the Yalda Night as thanksgiving from God's blessings by Zoroastrians.
This celebration is a sign of the importance of light, fire and energy in life, which begins with setting the fire on the top of mountains and roofs of houses near the sunset of the tenth of Bahman. The Sadeh festival is one of the great Iranian celebrations with no religious aspect and all the stories related to it are non-religious. This celebration would has been held by the kings, emirs and ordinary people from the pre-Islamic period, the Islamic era, until the late Khwarazmian era and the Mongol conquest and has continued to this day. There have been various narratives and opinions about the naming of the Sadeh and setting the fire. The most famous and largest celebrations of the Sadeh festival are held in Isfahan in Mardavij era when he celebrated the Sadeh and was killed at the end of the celebration by his opponents in 323 AH.
Sadeh celebration is held in many cities and villages of Iran and by Zoroastrians residing in other countries with the gathering and the presence of Zoroastrian, Muslim, and Persian Jews and etc., in one place, with the establishment of a large fire outside the city and the implementation of the different programs. Ancient Persians was on this belief that the Zoroastrians are gathered around a great fire and this fire bring warmth and light, and keeps fresh the hope for the triumph of light on darkness in the hearts. People gather together in the collecting of firewood from the days before the celebration. Today, According to the custom of this magnificent celebration in many regions of Iran despite the passing of thousands of years since the first Sadeh, no significant changes have been made in this celebration.
Chaharshanbe Soori is a particular and important common ritual of spring festival among Iranian tribes, which is held before Nowruz (New Year) in Iranian culture. Chaharshanbe Soori is one of the Nowruz rituals which it dates back to Iranian ancient rituals in which the fire is the most important element in all regions and also it is common in different forms among Aryan tribes.
Chaharshanbe Soori has been constituted from 2 words one of them is Chaharshanbe (Wednesday) "The last Wednesday of a year" and Soori "means red". Chaharshanbe soori is held in different regions by different methods due to their particular customs but fire is the main and shared element of Chaharshanbe Soori in all regions.
Fire is one of the classical elements and the only element which is pure and symbol of lighting, purity, freshness, life, health and at finally it is the most obvious symbol of God on the land. Chaharshanbe Soori is held with setting fire and jump over it in the night of the last Wednesday of each year (Thursday’s night). Today, Chaharshanbe Soori ceremony is both dangerous and exciting.