Meaning “New Day” in its rich and various spellings, Nowruz, the Iranian or Persian new year, is observed globally with great enthusiasm on March 21. It marks the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. Apart from this, Nowruz promotes peace and solidarity within families, and it encourages friendship and love among people of different communities. The celebration is closely associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran. But Nowruz is celebrated in many other parts of the world too, including India, Afghanistan, Central and Southern Asia, among Kurds across the Middle East, even in parts of the Balkans and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
Nowruz has a great significance in Islam, particularly in the Shia school of thought. In the book of Bihar-al-Anwar, our sixth Light of Guidance Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) talked about the importance of this day because:
This day of Nowruz holds traditional and cultural significance for the people in Kashmir, especially for our Shia community. In Kashmir, Nowruz is celebrated with great enthusiasm and in a traditional way to symbolise the rebirth of nature in different parts of the world. On this day, our Shia youth join hands together to plant trees and massive plantation drives are organised across the valley to preserve the rapidly deteriorating environment. Besides planting new tree saplings, people in Kashmir throng to practitioners of leech therapy as it is believed to be much more effective on this day. Many people consider it a better alternative to pharmacological treatments. This traditional method of curing diseases is still thriving in Kashmir.
Similar to different parts of the world, in our valley of Kashmir, Nowruz is celebrated with great enthusiasm; people will wear new clothes and dresses and go to the mosque to pray. Worshippers greet and embrace each other in a spirit of peace and love after the congregational prayer is over. The celebrations also include customary cooking of delicacies before holding family feasts, including Nadru and other Wazwaan dishes. One of the main customs of Nowruz is to exchange house visits during which guests are served tea, pastries, meats and fruits. People also exchange gifts and money to congratulate each other and wish each other “Novroz Mubarak”. Kashmiris are also seen playing kabbadi and other games, especially in rural areas of the Valley. All families celebrating this great day in Kashmir spend weeks preparing for Nowruz by cleaning their homes and doing repair work. One thing I have experienced, though, is that, in spite of having limited resources, people in Kashmir will spend thousands of rupees to celebrate the Nowruz festival. According to me, showing off by spending a huge amount of money on a variety of dishes and wasting food is neither part of Islam nor in the spirit of any festival. In fact, these kinds of acts are highly discouraged.
The UN’s General Assembly recognised the International Day of Nowruz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. Also in 2009, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The celebrations have a symbolic meaning and cannot be complete until you give away two-thirds of the food you prepare to poor and needy people. So, the essence of this blessed day of Nowruz is to support and help those in need, remember family, and seek forgiveness and blessings through these acts. Also, the best way to make our Almighty Allah happy is to save a little amount on this day and use it to promote Islam and to educate our children.