Happy Nowruz! Happy Persian New Year!
Nowruz, which translates as “New Day” or “New Light”, is the name given New Year’s Day in the Persian (Iranian) calendar. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3000 years across the region that once made up the Persian Empire.
Before the Greeks, Romans, and Ottoman Turks lay claim to vast territories, the Persian Empire was the largest and most powerful kingdom in human history. Its border stretched from the Indus River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. It extended to the Balkans, Black Sea Basin, Caucasus, North Africa, and Middle East.
Many believe Nowruz began as a Zoroastrian festival, a religion that held sway in the Persian Empire. Others claim earlier origins for celebrating the seasons’ change. No matter the origin, in Iran and nearby countries, Nowruz is still the most important holiday of the year.
Each year, Nowruz occurs at the moment of the vernal equinox. In Alaska, that was today at 3:21 pm. The vernal equinox, the first moment of spring, is when the sun crosses the equator into the northern hemisphere.
In Anchorage, four hours after the equinox, the sun is still brightly shining. Today, Anchorage will have more than 12 hours of daylight. We’ll gain 5-6 minutes of daylight each and every day until June 21. Snow still covers the ground, but is obviously melting (though it will no doubt snow again before spring is really here).
With the sun shining and the promise of spring in the air, the world looks wonderful. I feel joyful and ready to celebrate. Happy New Year! Happy Nowruz!
This week’s Blog of the Week was Azita’s wonderful Turmeric and Saffron; she writes about traditional Persian cooking with a modern twist. If you want to read more about Nowruz customs, Azita has a good overview here and a collection of Nowruz posts here.
In honor of Nowruz, I made Azita’s recipe for Kookoo Sabzi, an oven-baked Herb Frittata, with far more vegetables than an Italian-style frittata. I loved it so much when it was warm, I had seconds. I couldn’t quit thinking about it, so had it again, cold, for dinner; leftovers were just as good as fresh.
Kookoo Sabzi tastes like the essence of Mediterranean spring. In Greece, and no doubt most of the Middle East, spring is the only time of year when lettuce, spinach, scallions, and green herbs grow in profusion. Hens are laying so many eggs, it’s hard to use them fast enough. Celebrating seasonal abundance is a classic way to honor the vernal equinox.