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Navroz - Parsi & Zoroastrian Religious Festivals

Nowruz/Navroz and Khordad Sal are two great celebrations in the Zoroastrian culture.

Zoroastrians celebrate Nowruz (The Zoroastrian/Parsi New Year) twice a year, the first time as Jamshedi Nowruz which falls every year on March 21 as Spring begins and a second Nowruz in July/August which changes every year according to the day it falls according to the Parsi Shenshai calender. This year Navroz falls on August 18th 2014.

Khordad Sal is the birth anniversary of the holy prophet Zarathustra who founded the monotheistic faith Zoroastrianism around 1200BC and it is considered one of the most important days in the Zoroastrian calendar. Khordad Sal is celebrated on the 6th day of the first Parsi month, Farvardin. Navroz and Khordad Sal is celebrated in an almost identical way.

The July/August Nowruz is celebrated after the last day of the Parsi calendar year. Before Navroz, a period of daily prayers in honor and remembrance for family members who have passed away known as Muktad are performed which is followed by Pateti, the New Year's Eve for Parsis who follow the Shenshai calendar. It is considered a day of repentance. The next day is Nowruz - New Year's Day.

On Pateti, the night before the Nowruz, Parsis bathe, wear new clothes and recite special prayers known as the Patet Pashemani to ask for forgiveness and resolve to be pure in mind, body and spirit, allowing for a fresh start to the New Year.

Before Navroz & Khordad Sal the house must be thoroughly cleaned. Cleanliness is a very important part of the Zoroastrian faith. Purity of mind, body, spirit and environment are all important.

On the morning of Navroz & Khordad Sal a beautiful flower garland known as a "toran" will be hung above the front door. The lady or daughter of the home will line the front doorway of the house with beautiful and colorful designs produced by stamping a chawlk filled tray (chawlk is similar to talcum powder) which is placed into perforated design and "stamped" onto the ground. These beautiful designs bring blessings into the home. Everything that is done on these days symbolizes health, wealth, happiness and good luck coming into the home and blessing the family.

It is traditional for breakfast to be sweet for any Zoroastrian celebration or auspicious day. This is known as Mitthu Monu (which translates into "sweet mouth"). Starting with something sweet on these days is meant to bring you good luck. Delicious dishes like Parsi Ravo - a sweet semolina dish flavored with spices and garnished with fried sultanas and nuts and Parsi Sev - a roasted sweet vermicelli dish flavored with spices and served with fried nuts, sultanas and yogurt or sweet dhai (sweet yogurt) are devoured eagerly. I can honestly say my Mum makes the best Parsi Sev! You can see how Mum makes her awesome Parsi Sev here.

In the morning and before 12.40pm it is customary to shower and wash your hair as well, wear new clothes (nothing black or too dark) and pray before the household divo (this is a glass filled with oil and a wick which is lit and burnt similar to a candle). Often incense, beautiful flowers and sugar or sweets are placed by the divo as well. Some families may also place a small ses around the divo. The ses is usually a silver tray that holds various ceremonial utensils and items that are used during a Zoroastrian ceremony and have symbolic importance. A picture or small statue of Zarathustra is often kept beside the divo as well. During Jamshedi Navroz in March a much more elaborate table called a Haft Sheen is made which I shall fill you in on in a future blog.

For those who live in countries where there are fire temples (known as an agiary) and Atash Behrams, (the most sacred of the Zoroastrian temples) one must go and pray before the holy fire. The holy fire and the divo both represent and symbolize the pure and divine light of Ahura Mazda (God) . During this day it is also customary to give donations and/or do charity which is a very big part of the Zoroastrian ethos.

The rest of the day is then devoted to enjoying time with family and friends and eating – there is a lot of eating! Although every family has their own way of celebrating and their own family favorites lunch and dinner are big occasions on these days.

Yellow dhal, fried fish and white rice is often eaten for festive occasions but Biryani or Pulao, spiced dhal, Chicken Farcha (Parsi style fried chicken) Sali Boti (meat in sauce topped with crispy potato sticks) and Patra-Ni-Macchi (fish cooked in banana leaves) are popular favorites to feast upon.

Desserts follow and often the delicious rose flavored milk Falooda will be served along with other mouth-watering sweets and delicacies. You can see how easy it is to make Falooda here.

Wishing all of you A Very Happy Health and Prosperous Navroz and Khordad Sal Mubarak! May Ahura Mazda shower you with his blessings.

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