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Persepolis may have been built to celebrate Nowruz in

Persepolis may have been built in the 500s BC as a place to celebrate Nowruz.

What is the holiday of Nowruz?

Zoroastrianism became much more popular suddenly when the Persian kings became Zoroastrians around 550 BC. Soon after that, Zoroastrian worshippers began to celebrate the first day of spring as an important holiday. That was the first day of their New Year.

What is Zoroastrianism?
West Asian religion
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Where did Nowruz come from?

Nowruz is probably related to an even older Babylonian New Year’s tradition. The Enuma Elish celebrates this earlier New Year, which probably goes back to before there was writing, before 3000 BC.

What’s the Enuma Elish?
The Babylonians

How do you know when it is Nowruz?

Iranians knew when the first day of spring was because Iranian astrologers kept track of the movements of the stars and the sun. When the sun leaves Pisces and enters the constellation of Aries, that’s the New Year – Nowruz.

West Asian astronomy
Islamic astronomy

What does Nowruz mean?

The word Nowruz means “New Light” for the longer days of spring. “Now” is related to our word “New” and “ruz” is related to Latin “lux” and (less closely) to our word “light”.

Wait what, Persian is related to English?

Man carrying an egg (Persepolis, 500s BC)

Man carrying an egg (Persepolis, 500s BC)

How did people celebrate Nowruz?

People celebrated Nowruz by plowing the first furrows in their fields. They exchanged gifts. Under the Persian Empire, rich lords brought gifts of eggs to the Persian king. People cleaned out their houses and got new clothes. They put out a special tray with seven symbols of the season. The seven symbols included a little lamp with a flamesugarflowersrice, rose water, and betel nut. Sometimes people put out decorated eggs, a bowl with fish in it, or coins.

Easter eggs and Nowruz eggs
West Asian clothing
Sugar and the Islamic Empire
The Persian kings

Nowruz lasted for twelve days. People visited their families and friends. Some people built bonfires and jumped over them for good luck. Children trick-or-treated from door to door, or left baskets outside houses to be filled with candies and nuts.

History of baskets
Where do almonds come from?
A project with almonds

What did people eat for Nowruz?

People ate special foods for Nowruz too. They ate green spring herbs like parsley, spinach and cilantro, stuffed grape leaves or dolmades, fish, baklava and candied almonds, and dried fruits mixed with nuts.

Try comparing Nowruz to the older Babylonian New Year, to the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover. See how Nowruz is also like the Chinese holiday of Qingming Jie, and the Christian holiday of Easter, which all happen at the same time of year, and like Chinese New Year, which is just a little earlier.

Babylonian New Year
Qingming Jie

Bibliography and further reading about Zoroastrianism:

Zoroastrianism, by Paula Hartz (updated 2004). Easy reading.

The Usborne Book of World Religions, by Susan Meredith (1996). Easy reading.

An Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion: Readings from the Avesta and Achaemenid Inscriptions, by William Malandra (1983). A nice clear explanation of ancient Zoroastrianism, by a specialist, for adults.

Or check out this website about Zoroastrianism.

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