Haft Shin or Haft Sin



Every house gets a thorough cleaning almost a month before. Wheat, barley, lentils, and other vegetable seeds are soaked to grow on china plates and round earthenware vessels some ten days in advance, so that the sprouts are three to four inches in height by Nowruz.
Today, the ceremony has been simplified. A table is laid. It has a copy of the sacred book (the Gathas for Zarathushtrians), picture of Zarathushtra (or a Saint's picture by other creeds), a mirror, candles, incense burner, bowl of water with live gold fish, the plates and vessels with green sprouts, flowers, fruits, coins, bread, sugar cone, various grains, colorfully painted boiled eggs like "Easter eggs," and above all, seven articles with their names beginning in Persian with the letter "S" (seen) or "SH" (sheen). The usual things with "S" are vinegar (serkeh), sumac (somâgh), garlic (sîr), samanu (consistency of germinating wheat), apple (sîb), sorb (senjed), and sabzi (herbs). Those with an initial letter "SH" include wine (sharâb), sugar (shakar), syrup (shîreh), honey (shahd), candy (shîrîni), milk (shîr), and rice pudding (shîr-berenj). The seven articles are prominently exhibited in small bowls or plates on the table.
The table is laid with a white cloth. White represents spotless purity.

Those with "S" inform us:

First Plate: I am SERKEH, the vinegar. I am sour but I am a good preservative. I add taste to the things you want to preserve and relish. I symbolize tasty preservation.
Second Plate: I am SUMAC, exotic in my own way, I make your favorite kabobs have a tangy taste, a taste you relish. I symbolize taste.
Third Plate: I am SIR, garlic. Some may not like my aroma and others love it. I lower blood pressure. I pacify. I symbolize peace.
Fourth Plate: I am SAMANU, a sweetish paste, a kind of halwa, made from germinating wheat. I symbolize the sprouting spring, the time for happy growth.
Fifth Plate: I am SIB, apple. I symbolize the fruits of our world, both literally and allegorically.
Sixth Plate: I am SENJED, the tasteless berry of the sorb tree. I am the fruit of a tree which provides shade in summer. I symbolize the shelter and security you need when you want a rest.
Seventh Plate: I am SABZI, fresh green herbs. I come from green fields. I symbolize prosperity.

The seven plates with "SH" tell us:

First Plate: I am SHARAB, the wine. I am the nectar. I symbolize health and happiness, of course, if taken in moderation! To your health!
Second Plate: I am SHAKAR, sugar. I give your favorite foods their sweetness. I symbolize sweetness.
Third Plate: I am SHIR, milk, the first food one tastes in this world. I symbolize nourishing food.
Fourth Plate: I am SHIREH, syrup. I am the sap, the fluid essential for life, health and vigor. I symbolize vigorous health.
Fifth Plate: I SHAHD, honey. I am the sweet produce of the cooperative bees. I symbolize the sweet result of teamwork.
Sixth Plate: I am SHIRINI, candy, loved by those who have a sweet tooth. I simply symbolize sweetness with no sign of bitterness.
Seventh Plate: I am SHIR-BERENJ, rice pudding, and a tasty food. I symbolize food for taste and health.
The mirror reflects our past and shows us our present so that we thoughtfully plan our future. The candles are light, warmth, and energy to lead a righteous life that would, in turn, radiate light, give warmth, and provide energy for others. The incense burner gives the fragrance we need to meditate, pray to God, and ask for help and guidance. The gold fish symbolizes a happy life, full of activity and movement. The plates of green sprouts represent creativity and productivity, and so do the colorfully painted eggs.
As you see, the whole table is beautifully laid. It symbolizes the Message and the Messenger, light, reflection, warmth, life, love, joy, production, prosperity, and nature. It is, in fact, a very elaborate thanksgiving table for all the good and beautiful things.
Family members, all dressed in their best, sit around the table and eagerly await the announcement of the exact time of vernal equinox over radio or television. The head of the family recites the Nowruz prayers, and after the time is announced, each member kisses the other and wishes a Happy Nowruz. Elders give gifts to younger members. Next, the rounds of visits to neighbors, relatives, and friends begin. Each visit is reciprocated.
Singing and dancing is, more or less for the first two weeks, a daily routine. The festivity continues for 12 days, and on the 13th morning, the mass picnic to countryside begins. It is called SIZDEH-BE-DAR, meaning "thirteen-in-the-outdoors." Cities and villages turn into ghost towns with almost all the inhabitants gone to enjoy the day in woods and mountains along streams and riversides. People sing, dance, and make merry. Girls of marriageable age tie wild grass tops into knots and make a wish that the following Nowruz may find them married and carrying their bonny babies!