Nowruz celebrations at Creek Park last year. Nowruz, which literary means new day, has been celebrated for some 3,000 years in Iran, Afghanistan and other countries. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Persian-speaking expats celebrated the beginning of the Persian New Year, Nowruz, on Thursday night with the Haft Seen (Seven S’s) ritual of placing seven items on a table, hoping for good fortune.

Nowruz, which literary means new day, has been celebrated for some 3,000 years, mainly in Iran, Afghanistan and other countries influenced by ancient Persia.

In the UAE, Iranians, Afghans and other expat communities such as Tajiks and Uzbeks, rang in Nowruz by gathering around Haft Seen.

Nowruz falls on or close to March 21, when night and day become equal in length, heralding Spring.

The moment is calculated closely by Nowruz followers — it occurred at 8:57:07pm on Thursday in the UAE, according to some members of the Iranian community in Dubai.

“It’s a new beginning, a new hope for us,” said Hamid Ahmadi, an Iranian businessman in Dubai.

Nowruz celebrants said they would gather around Haft Seen as usual to mark the start of the coming festive days, which last around two weeks in some countries and communities.

Life and well-being

Seven items, whose names start with the Persian letter ‘seen’ (the equivalent of ‘s’ in English) are placed on a table. These include seeb (apple), sekeh (coin), and senjed (olives), with each item symbolising something auspicious such as health or prosperity.

Also presented in typical fashion is a live fish in a water bowl, to represent life and well-being, Ahmadi said. Patrons usually plan to make it the first thing to gaze upon the moment Nowruz arrives.

“I will go to the beach and look out to the sea when Nowruz occurs. Water and fish are good things, and the sea has a lot of both.”

The ceremony is immediately followed by dining and merriment, with social visits planned in the coming days. Children receive sweets and cash as gifts from elders while family and relatives make an effort to patch up any problems in their relationships.

“For children, it’s the best time of the year. You get chocolates, money and holiday from school — what more could you want?” Ahmadi said.