Nowruz is a holiday that marks the first day of Spring as well as the beginning of the Persianate calendar. Although the holiday has its roots in Zoroastrian religious practices, today the holiday is celebrated widely across Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Balkans as well as by Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Ismailis, Alawites, and Alevis wherever they may be.
Nowruz — which literally means “new day” in Persian — means new beginnings. As a holiday associated with the coming of spring, it is naturally a productive force and a time of reflection on the year that has past as well as our wishes for the year to come.
Nowruz celebrations take place for weeks both before and after the day itself, depending on where and by whom the holiday is being marked.
In Iran, Azerbaijan, and Kurdistan, for example, the eve of the Wednesday before Nowruz is marked by jumping over bonfires set up in public places. In other places Nowruz even takes on explicitly religious meanings; for Alevis in Turkey, for example, the day is marked as Imam Ali’s birthday, while Bektashi Dervishes in the Albanian-speaking Balkans hold zekr, or gatherings of ritual chanting, in their holy places.
Wherever Nowruz is marked, the power and importance of the natural world to human life is at the center of every festivity. Parties take place in parks or wherever nature can be found, and Nowruz becomes a celebration of love, life, and dance in nature for all who take part. Because the holiday itself is synced with the natural calendar’s shift to springtime, Nowruz also marks the beginning of the six months in which the day is longer than the night, a change of incredible importance in a time before electricity. Indeed, Nowruz is a time in which we embrace the world around us and regain the strength to face the challenges before us.
On the occasion of the beginning of the year 1394 in the Persianate calendar, Ajam offers you a renewed version of last year’s Nowruz mixtape by our editor Kamyar Jarahzadeh.
Give it a listen:
Kamyar also put together a spotify playlist in honor of Crescent Moon Projects, a four-week pop-up celebration of Iranian arts and culture this month in Manhattan.
For those of you who, like us, just can’t get enough of the Nowruzi music, check it out:
When we founded Ajam in the Fall of 2011, it was just a small blog run by a few graduate students who hoped to help change the conversation about Iran and the greater Persianate world. In academic settings, we found ourselves confronted by descriptions that seemed to have little to do with the incredible complexity of the world we encountered outside. And similarly, in popular discourse, cliched, nationalist, and hopelessly narrow and ethnocentric views of the world seemed to predominate despite the diversity we recognized all around us.
At its core, Ajam was about producing knowledge and making it accessible, in the hope that this process would enrich both public and academic discourses, and contribute to a wider conversation that recognized the intricacy of the histories, narratives, and stories of the world around us.
Over time, the project evolved from a typical blog. Our pieces gradually became longer and more analytical, and we expanded beyond our traditional areas of study and explored new forms of media. We couldn’t have achieved this without our dedicated contributors. Some have contributed single pieces, and others who have shared their ideas and their writings with us multiple times since the inception of Ajam. Without them, the website would not exist. Or worse, it would be boring.
As we move forward into the new year, we have lots of big ideas for 1394. In the coming months we will be rolling out a new design and a new platform, even as we expand our focus to include digital archiving and film. We’re also hoping for more podcasts, more mixtapes, more words, and more weird, awesome stuff the likes of which have never been seen. We think you’ll like it. And we hope you’ll help us create it.
May the year 1394 be full of ideas, creativity, love, resistance, and power for all.
Ajam Media Collective Editorial Team
Nowruz is also a religious holiday for Baha’is!