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History of Newroz and its celebrations

Dr. Afrasiab Shekofteh

Every year on the March 21st, Iranian nations celebrate Newroz (New Day), and the Iranian calendar begins on this day as the first day of Spring, the first day of New Year.

It is claimed that this tradition dates back to the saga of Kawe (Kurdish man) the Blacksmith. On the March 21st in the year 612 B.C., Kawe along with people’s solidarity eliminated the Assyrian tyrant Zehak and liberated the Iranian nations such as Kurds, Persian, Azeris and others. Zehak was an evil King who represented cruelty, abuse, injustice and enslavement of the people. People used to pray every day for God to help them to get rid of Zehak in favour of a pluri-national democratic Iran.
 On the Newroz day/ March 21st, Kawe led a popular uprising and surrounded Zehak’s Palace. Kawe then rushed and passed the King’s guards and grabbed Zehak by the neck. Kawe then struck the evil tyrant on the head with a hammer and dragged him off his throne. It was a clash between two opposites, primitive barbarity and modern rationality, backwardness mentality and civilized prosperity. With this heroic deed, Kawe set the people free and proclaimed freedom throughout the land.

 Kawe ordered that a huge fire was lit on the mountain tops to send a message: firstly to thanks God for helping them to defeats Zehak, and secondly to the people, to tell them they were free. This is where the tradition of Newroz fire festival originates. Today, Newroz is not just a day for remembering, it is also a day for protest and resistance against oppression, injustice, backwardness and barbarity which the Iranian nations continue to suffer from. Iranian nations are deserved to be free.

Kawe as the sponsor of Newroz phenomena was a Kurd and that is why Newroz during the history up to now is much respected among the Kurds, and they are celeberateing it magnificently and gloriuosly.

Nowadays the tribe of Kawani (Kavanlu tribe) which is related to Kawe the blacksmith, some of them are living in some cities of Northern Kurdistan (in Turkey), and some of them are living in Khorasan (North east of Iran) in cities such as Quchan, Shirvan, Chenaran and Bojnurd. I am myself from Kavanlu (Kawani) tribe who borne in Quchan and grown up in Shirvan and Tehran, worked in public and private sectors among khorasani Kurds for years, and now am living in London, UK.

Every year on the March 21st Iranian nations in all parts of Iran including villages, towns and cities as well as those who live in diaspora, are gathered to show their unity, joy as well as cry out for their need to freedom and democracy.

Newroz also signifies the celebrations of Spring and natural outgrowth of the earth rhythms. In the most of the Silk Road countries, Newroz announces the joyful awakening of the agricultural cycle of cultivating, planting and harvesting.

Haji-Firooz who is a guy with darken dyed face and red clothed, is playing tombourine, dancing and jumping up and down in streets and public places, which shows the obvious symbol of liberty, freedom rejoicing, democracy happiness and justice pleasure in an immune and independent space and environment of free Newroz. Haji-Firooz resembles the deliver of a revival from misery, dark age and ill-natured winter to brightness, Spring prosperity and rose delicacy as of human salvation with a valuable dignity and respectness of modern free life.  

Newroz traditions are similar throughout the region, and have varied little over the centuries. Among the people who celebrate Newroz, only Afghanis and Iranian nations have kept the traditional solar or tropical calendar, in which the New Year begins on the day of Newroz. March 21st is the main celebration of Newroz, but for the next 13 days, it is common practice to visit friends and relatives, planting greens and seeding fruit trees and have cheerful gatherings in the fresh Spring air.

Traditionally, it is also a time to clean up one’s life. People tidy up their homes, wash rugs and draperies, decorate with flowers, and buy new cloths that they will use for visiting. Children enjoy the holiday because they often get presents of money, as well as blessing from their elders. The activities of the first 12 days of the New Year are considered, as indications of the year to come.

For this reason, it is traditional to end quarrels, forgive debts within ability and overlook enmity and insults. It is a time for reconciliation, when forgiveness and cheerfulness are the dominant sentiments. Newroz celebratory table contains specific meaningful elements. First, there must be a mirror, which reflects the past and shows the future so people can make reasonable plans. Next there must be candles which the flame hark back to the sacred nature of fire in the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Iran, and personify the light, sanitary and energy of a righteous life. Upward moving of the flames state the progressing and improving of life’s quality and style.

The table must also contain an incense-burner for aromas as of spring blossom scent, and a water-filled vessel in which alive red fish is placed to symbolize a happy life full of activity and movement and the red colour states the beauty of love and life. Most tables also include coin, sweets, fruits and a copy of a sacred book, such as Koran or Bible and or Avesta.

The original spirit and actions of Newroz is struggling and resistance to overcome tyranny. It is a symbol of a popular solidarity to get strength and more power to end up injustice and oppression by overthrowing the evil tyrants, and then the oppressed people to enjoy the glorious new day.

Newroz in its deep rational concept does not just belong to the Iranian nations; it is a model and possession for all oppressed people in the world, to get freedom, democracy, gender equality, religious tolerance, and civilized prosperity, freedom of expression, individual dignity and national integrity. Newroz as a cultural meaningful traditions phenomenon is a historical symbol of liberty. In my view Newroz should be registered as an international day by UN, and all people across the globe should join us to enjoy it as a very old and historical symbol of liberty and mankind dignity on this planet.

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