The first day of spring is generally an ordinary day in many countries, while in Iran is Nowruz, meaning new day and first day of Persian new year. Persian calendar is a solar one, on the basis of great respect of Iranian ancestors towards the sun. Persian new year starts each year on the spring equinox, 20th or 21st of March. Nowruz, is symbol of nature’s rebirth and the most important non-religious occasion among Iranians and some other ethnicities including Afghans, Kurd tribes, Tajiks and Georgians. This ancient tradition has been celebrating over two millennia from the time of Cyrus the Great.
Traditionally, at the turning point of new year, all Iranian families gather around Sofreh Haft-Sin, an ornamental tabletop and Iranian equivalent for Christmas tree. It includes seven ingredients starting with Sin letter of Farsi alphabets, each of them bringing specific cultural meaning for wishing a prosperous year. Here are the most commonly used seven Sins:
- Sabzeh: Green Grass, symbol of rebirth
- Samanu: sweet dessert, Finnish Mämmi, symbol of affluence
- Senjed: dried Oleaster, symbol of love
- Sir: garlic, symbol of well-being and being restorative
- Sib: apple, symbol of beauty and health
- Sekkeh: coins, symbol of wealth
- Somaq: dried Sumac powder, symbol of sunrise
Families decorate Haft-sin according to their tastes by placing in it the seven Sins and other ornaments like candles, painted eggs, vase of Hyacinth, Goldfish or Divan-e Hafiz (famous Persian book of poetry).
The other old tradition is to make bonfires at the last Tuesday night of the year which symbolizes wishing the best for the coming year by getting power from fire, forgiveness and forgetting the old year’s disappointments and bad memories. The same night is also the high season of firecrackers for youngsters.
Esfand, Last month of Persian calendar, starting around 20th February each year, is also time for the spring cleaning that has to be done before Nowruz. Iranians welcome the coming year by removing the dusts, polishing the housewares and prettifying everything. Tick-tock of the clocks towards the new year, makes locals overwhelmed by Nowruz preparations. There is rush everywhere for undone shopping or accomplishing the residuals. Massive crowds could be seen everywhere from pedestrian crossings to shopping malls accompanying by huge traffic jams specially in the bigger cities.
The cash flow lowers in the whole country particularly for providing the new paper monies which is the most customary new year gift in Iran. The season is the busiest time for Iranian businesses due to the higher demand of internal market and closing the fiscal year, while international business activities might slowdown or almost stop around 20th of March. The whole new year season lasts usually two weeks and the common returning date is approximately 3rd of April equal to 14th of Farvardin, first month of the Persian calendar.
The calendar is different in many ways. In the first half of the Persian year, months are 31 days, next 5 months have 30 days and the last month has 29 days which becomes 30 days in the leap years. Working days also are different in Iran and while many other places around the globe are enjoying their relaxed Saturday mornings, Iranians have their most hectic time of the week. Working week in Iran starts on Saturday and ends generally Wednesday afternoon, with some exceptionally open organizations till Thursday noon. Therefore, the number of official working days common between Iranians and the rest of the world should be considered as 3.5 days! However, many engaged businesses try to adapt themselves with the calendar differences, in order to remain active.
Apart from the calendar differences in Iran, likewise all other societies, there are also cultural communalities and dissimilarities which knowing them is definitely a trump especially for the involved businesses. Here are some general hints to the Iranian culture, however, this does not mean to constructing any generalization about the culture and neglecting the personal ways of behaving.
On the basis of Iran’s major warm climate and the rich Persian literature, Iranians are warm, hospitable, articulate and societal people. The food tables are generally colorful and the usual table decorum is spoon and fork because of types of cuisines. Along with many other social etiquettes in Iran, there is a culture of offering, called Taarof, which is more for the initial meeting occurrences. It means that your host will offer you food or other things several times to get sure you are comfortable at their places.
The culture is generally family-centered and social rather than individualistic or private. People are usually very polite and formality especially in the working culture is appreciated. The working culture is more hierarchical and formal dressing addresses respect. Generally, respecting others is highly appreciated among Iranians specially towards seniors, teachers and newcomers.
Having the old Bazaar and trading culture back to the 17th century, makes Iranians generally interested to negotiate and making deals. There are preparatory speeches and enumerating the pros and cons for making requests or introducing a new subject. Indirect and private discussions, especially while requesting or disagreeing, is sign of politeness in the eyes of locals, especially arguments should be made in solitude. In a nutshell, these great expressive folks appreciate more socializing along with attentive behaving and talking.
At the end, East Consulting, wishes all a great spring and a prosperous Persian new year for the celebrating nations.
The blog text was written by Houra Saghafifar.