When we hear the word “festival”, what initially comes to our mind? A general celebration, a celebration of arts, a celebration of culture, occult celebration or marking of special days or events.
I would say for the Iranians festival is an all-embracing generational thing. Interestingly they eat and breathe festivals while marking activities, events, days, or maintaining traditions.
The people of Iran are lovers of feasts and celebrations. Far back, as the Iran story began they have been involved in variety of festivals. To say that there are three major festivals in Iran would be an understatement because the Iranian populace has even carried over their festive tendencies into the field of technology.
This has given birth to so many national and International festivals e.g. the International Nanotechnology festival. One may seem to wonder what species of human beingsis Iranian population comprised ofas they’re involved on such a wide range of festivals.
Maybeknowingthat the Iran nation had evolved over the years from a background of colorful ethnicitywill give us a better understanding as to their multi-festive abilities so to say.
The Iranians engage in festivals of rain, fire, light, love,agriculture, culture, technological innovations, religions, rituals, traditions, and businessese.g. festival of entrepreneurs. They also observe the festival of sports, arts such as music and films, spring, winter, nature such as flowers e.g. festival of rose. It does not end there but the list includes the festival of toys, puppets, carpets, etc. I am sure like me you might wonder why they seemed not to have lost count. I would call that the Persian blood. Iran was crafted out from the renowned ancient PersianEmpire.
Other festivals in Iran were later mentioned at the close of this write-up.
I will mentionthree very important festivals in Iran. Most of the Iranian festivals hold serious relevance to their citizens, to other neighboring countries and to the outside world at large. The three have beenhighlightedfor discussion due to their popularity, profoundness and years of existence.
The three are Nowruz or Navroz, Yalda, and Sadeh. The three festivals are very popularand attract tourists from all over the world. Among the three the Nowruz festival is even celebrated by some neighboring countries like Albania, Afghanistan, and Turkey, etc.
The three afore-mentioned festivals celebrated by the Iran populace could be traceable to an ancient belief called Zoroastrianism, which some people said, had a religious connotation.
The inclination of the Iranians towards festivities might have stemmed up from their background of ruggedness and doggedness, which they acquired because of war, including political and economic upheavals. I am sure they tend to heal up emotionally and psychologically by taking to celebrations.
Nowruz (March 20)
Nowruz festival boasts ofbeing celebrated by over 300 million people of the world populace. Probably you may tend to wonder why Nowruz has almost become such a household name in these regions.
What or who originated Nowruz and how far back has it been celebrated?We shall unravel this mystery as you coast along with me in this write-up.
First, it has been as far back as you could count the ages over 3000 years back. Nowruz is the beginning of a new year celebration. Its importance is noted fromthe coming together of members of each Iranian family in their choice family house. They rekindle old familiarities, give gifts and share memories.
I am sure part of Nowruz popularity dates back to the fact that it is not attached to any cultural or religious belief. Let us call it a pure festival.
Some noticeable things about Nowruz festive celebration aretheir custom ofmaintaining the house and environmental sanitation. They observe general house cleaning principles capped up with friendly visitations. Their exchange of gifts would remind one of the general Boxing Day. Uniquely they also add a touch of red and humor to it, wherein some people wear red costumes and paint their faces black going about like clowns with singing and dancing.
Funningly Nowruz may tend to have included some pure rituals in its celebration like setting out of a feasting table with seven different kinds of items. Seven is a symbol of perfection this could be termed to be ritualistic though pure in approach. The pomp put up by the Iranians in setting out this table is worthy of note with each item bearing the name that starts with the letter “s”. I call this the Iranian banquet. This festival has an overlapping edge to its celebration because its significance is to say goodbye to winter and give spring a welcome embrace.
Nowruzis usually celebrated on the 21st day of March and preceded with fire-dancing. What isdancing and jumping over the fire all about? Well,that isthe overlapping edge because fire-dancingholds on the evening of the last Wednesday precedingNowruz thereby pre-birthing another festival called Charharshanbeh Suri.Little wonder it is termed the Persian New Year because Persia was the ancient name of Iran.
Of the three festivals, Nowruz seems the most popular and has had international recognition. How enthralling? Everything about its celebration has a touch of “new” to it; a new day, a new beginning, new year, new things, new life, etc. Nowruz is a 12-day festival and indeed the beginning of spring.
Yalda (December 21-22)
Yalda could be termed to be a night festival. It is time to say welcome to winter. Yalda festivalusually holds on December 21st. Yalda could equally be termed to be a festival of red. It is often celebrated with red fruits such as pomegranates. Pomegranates have great health and nutritional benefit. Therefore it is a symbol of vibrant life and energy. Any fruit that has a touch of the red inside is equally welcome e.g. watermelon
It seemed many traditions were initially involved in the Yalda festive celebration by Iranians but the only significant and still cherished one amidst them is the one that involves their having to stay awake through the night. Tradition has it that they had to stay awake to protect themselves from attacks by evil spirits/forces which is a prevalent danger at night. You might agree with me that this has a tinge of ritual to it.
Imagine yourself living through the night in fear of attack from unseen dark forces. Undoubtedly, Yalda night/festival has been declared the longest night of the year. They use this occasion to gather together, feasting, singing and telling folk stories probably praying to quickly see the light of a new dawn.
We might easily conclude that Yalda could not be an internationally celebrated festival because I bet you would not want to be almost jumping out of your skin all through the night!
Yalda festival may not have any international attraction but it is one of the oldest festivals in Iran. It is welcome to winter. To the Iranians, it also means light has prevailed over darkness. Another significance of Yalda to the Iranians is that it marks the end of cropping.
Sadeh (January 30)
Interestingly Sadeh festival precedes Nowruz festival. Sadeh we could term to be a pre-spring festival. I call Sadeh a festival of fire. “Sadeh” connotes hundred and depicts 100 days and 100 nights festive observance before spring. Why is it regarded as a festival of fire?What birthed a festival like this in Iran?
Why do they need to jump over the fire? We have to get back to medieval Iran to fetch out the origin and understand the basis for such display. It happened that thousands of years back, an Iranian king in a bid to kill a snake on a mountain with a flint stone ended up accidentally making the first fire in such a dark age. This marked the beginning of fire celebration.
Another significance of Sadeh fire festival to the Iranians is that they believe it signals a good-bye to winter. They attach importance to the fact that fire drives away all the evil spirits associated with winter/cold. They, therefore, celebrate it with great excitement. To the teenagers Sadeh festival also marks their transition to adulthood for those who are of age according to their custom.
Sadeh is celebrated with bonfires and with great dancing and singing. Sadeh the festival of fire also earned an international recognition though not as much as Nowruz. It is u 3-day festival celebrated on 30 January each year by all Iranians within and outside the country where they could be seen singing and dancing around fires.
It is an observable fact that most Iranians attach no religious belief to the Sadeh festival but only try at maintaining and establishing a tradition.
If you are now excited to get to know the Iranian culture and all the festivals taking place in that beautiful country, go and visit the German website Backpackertrail to get all the information you need for your next trip to Iran.
List of other major festivals
January – Nil
February – Ashoura
March – Leilat al Mi’raj
April – Imam Mahdi’s birthday
May – Kashan Rosewater festival
July – Tehran International puppet theater festival
September – Tassoua
October – Tehran International short film festival
November – Birthday of prophet Mohammed
December –Charharshanbeh Suri and Christmas