A traditional "Haft Sin" table, set for the Nowruz Festival at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Asian Art Galleries on March 13, 2011. For the source of this 3000 year old celebration, below are excerpts from Wikipedia on its history, traditions, and world-wide recognition.
Nowrūz...[nouˈɾuːz], "New Day", originally "New Light") is the name of the New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year...celebrated and observed by Iranian peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.
Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in
the Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical
vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 ...
Originally being a Zoroastrian festival, and the holiest of them all, Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin. The Jewish festival of Purim is probably adopted from the Persian New Year. It is also a holy day for Sufis, Ismailis, Alawites, Alevis, and adherents of the Bahá'í Faith.
The UN's General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years....Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Haft Sin or the seven 'S's is a major traditional table setting of Nowruz...includes seven specific items starting with the letter 'S'...in the Persian alphabet. The items symbolically correspond to seven creations and holy immortals called Amesha Sepanta protecting them. The seven elements of Life, namely Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, and Human, are represented ...Traditionally, families attempt to set as beautiful a Haft Sīn table as they can, as it is not only of traditional and spiritual value, but also noticed by visitors during Nowruzi ... and is a reflection of their good taste.
The Haft Sīn items are:
* sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
* samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
* senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
* sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
* sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
* somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
* serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience.
Other items on the table may include:
* Sonbol - Hyacinth (plant)
* Sekkeh - Coins - representative of wealth
* traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
* Aajeel - dried nuts, berries and raisins
* lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
* a mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
* decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
* a bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving). As an essential object of the Nowruz table, this goldfish is also "very ancient and meaningful"...
* rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
* the national colours, for a patriotic touch
* a holy book (e.g., the Avesta, Qur'an, Bible, Torah,...) and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafez)