Iran marks New Year as Supreme Leader extends congratulatory message
Iranians began their New Year festivities as spring arrived for 13 days following the ancient custom of celebrating the vernal equinox, Fars news agency reported.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a televised speech to mark the Persian New Year.
Khamenei's message was interspersed with greetings, wishes for a better future and angry diatribes against the West.
He said that life has its ups and downs, but what is important is that people arrive at the ups.
He said that last year was marked by a conflict with Iran's enemies and that those enemies targeted both its political system and its economy, trying to hinder it with their sanctions.
Khamenei went on to urge his countrymen to work harder and invest more. He told them to "persevere, stay optimistic and be enthusiastic." Iran's upcoming June presidential election, he said, will create a "road map" for the country over the next four years.
He laid emphasis on the crucial importance of political and economic developments in the Persian New Year, and said the Iranian people will display an epic presence in both fields this year.
The Leader congratulated Iranians nationwide, all Iranians who are living in different parts of the world and all other nations who celebrate Nowrouz holiday.
Ayatollah Khamenei also wished and prayed Allah to bestow joy and happiness on the people of Iran in this New Year.
For Iranians, Nowrouz is a celebration of new beginnings, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.
Meaning 'new day,' Nowrouz is celebrated by over 300 million people worldwide on March 20.
Days before the Iranian New Year's Eve, people carefully clean their homes, go to markets and traditional bazaars to clothe themselves in new garments and assemble dainty edibles, flowers and Nowrouz ornaments, including flowers and green grass.
An important part of the Iranian New Year rituals is setting out the Haft Seen (Seven "S"s) table. Each family sets seven items on a table and all these seven items begin with the letter "S'' in the Persian language.
A Haft Seen usually includes: Seeb (apple), Sabze (green grass), Serke (vinegar), Samanoo (a delicacy made from sprouted wheat), Senjed (a special kind of berry), Sekke (coins), and Seer (garlic).
While the term Nowrouz first appeared in Persian records in the second century CE, there is evidence suggesting that the celebration may be much older.
Tradition takes Nowrouz as far back as the time of King Jamshid when the life of Indo-Iranian settlers depended on farming and the coming of spring, when nature re-awakened and flowers bloomed.
The United Nations General Assembly recognized March 21st as the International Day of Nowrouz during its sixty-fourth session on Feb. 23, 2010.