Persian New Year celebrations spring up across the U.S.

Millions of Americans will ring in the Persian New Year of Nowruz on March 20 at special events across the United States.

“Nowruz is the harbinger of hope, a rebirth, just like nature in spring — a goodbye to the dark days and a hello to the new day,” said Majid Sadeghpour of the Organization of Iranian American Communities in Washington. Nowruz is a holy day for both Zoroastrians and Baha’is and a national holiday in Iran and many Central Asian countries. It’s also observed in many regions in the Caucasus and the Balkans, and in Central and Western Asia.

Two boys in red costumes speaking into microphones on a stage (© Ali Khaligh)
Two boys dressed as Haji Firooz, the traditional herald of Nowruz, welcome people attending the Nowruz Festival in Virginia. (© Ali Khaligh)

Celebrated for more than 3,000 years, this spring festival marks the first day of the Iranian calendar. Nowruz falls on the March equinox —the day when the sun directly shines on the Earth’s equator and the daytime and nighttime hours are about equal.

Man placing trays of sprouts on the ground (© Ali Khaligh)
A man sells sprouts at the Nowruz Festival in Virginia. Sprouting grain or lentils are one of the seven symbolic dishes presented on a ceremonial table each Nowruz. (© Ali Khaligh)

In the United States, international student clubs host Nowruz events on their college campuses, museums stage Persian art exhibitions, and orchestras feature Persian music. Many Iranian-American associations organize large celebrations.

“Nowruz brings a lot of joy to all Iranian Americans who live in the United States,” said Shohreh Asemi of the Iranian-American Community Center in Vienna, Virginia. “For visitors, it is a joyful day packed with entertainment, Iranian handicrafts and delicious Persian dishes. It’s a wonderful opportunity for guests to learn about the peaceful and jubilant face of our culture.”

Table full of offerings for a religious holiday (©Ali Khaligh)
A table full of offerings, called Haft Seen, is an arrangement of the seven symbolic items traditionally displayed at Nowruz. (© Ali Khaligh)

To mark Nowruz in 2017, President Trump said the holiday’s theme of new beginnings is “a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land.”