Persian New Year Transcends Religions, Regimes

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The celebration continues for 13 days with gatherings of relatives and friends to renew friendships, bury grievances, and exchange gifts and wishes. It is common for Persians to take time off from work and school.

On the 13th, and final, day people head outdoors and into the countryside for a picnic. It is a final time to toss out the old and ring in the new. This is symbolized by the tossing into a stream the wheat that had been growing on the Haft seen table since before the new year.

It is also customary for young women to tie green shoots together to symbolize their hope for marriage in the coming year. "You tie a knot that symbolizes the tying of your destiny with the destiny of another person," Afkhami said.

Tolerated Holiday

When the theocratic government of Iran came to power in 1979, Nowruz was banned. The government wanted to recognize only Islamic holidays and considered Nowruz a pagan celebration, Afkhami said.

"But the people wouldn't have any of it," she said. "It's the most popular holiday in Iran, and people continued to celebrate it anyway. Then, finally, the government let go and lifted the ban."

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