A New Day: Celebrating Nowruz

Nowruz, the Persian word for “new day,” marks the vernal equinox and the first day of spring. Rooted in Zoroastrianism, the religion of Iran before the advent of Islam, Nowruz was celebrated in much of the ancient Near East as early as three thousand years ago. Today, people in many regions from West Asia and the Caucasus to Central Asia, to South Asia participate in the thirteen days of Nowruz festivities with their own local variations.

In Iran, the centerpiece of the Nowruz celebration is the Haft sin table. Share your Haft sin with us with by tagging @NatAsianArt or using #SmithsonianAsianArt. You might see your table in our photo gallery!

The table includes at least seven (haft) items that refer to new life and renewal, each of them beginning with the letter s (pronounced seen in Persian).

  • sib (apples): fertility and beauty
  • sonbol (hyacinth): fragrance
  • serkeh (wine vinegar): immortality and eternity
  • senjed (wild olives): fertility and love
  • sabzeh (wheat, barley, or lentil sprouts growing in a dish): rebirth
  • samanu (wheat sprout pudding): sweetness
  • sekkeh (coins): wealth

Other objects, can also be placed on the table, such as:

  • a mirror, to reflect the light of wisdom and creation
  • a book of poetry by the fourteenth-century writer Hafiz or a copy of the Qur’an
  • an orange floating in a bowl of water, to represent Earth floating in space
  • candles, to symbolize holy fire
  • decorated eggs, to represent fertility

Enjoy our Nowruz digital library, which represents the richness of the holiday’s traditions and celebrations.

Celebrate with us through online programs

We invite you to attend our virtual Nowruz programs, all of which are free of charge


View the full list of events…

Get creative with art-inspired activities for all ages

Create your own crowns and puppets, and decorate a coloring page depicting art from the museum’s collection or inspired by Firdawsi’s Shahnama (Book of Kings).
What is the Shahnama?

Crowns

Make your own crown inspired by images of nobility from the Book of Kings. Cut out your favorite design, punch holes near the edge, and use string to fasten the crown to your head.

Shahnama puppets

Create a puppet of a character from the Shahnama. Cut out your favorite character and attach the paper to cardboard (from a cereal box, for example) with a glue stick. Then, watch this video to learn how to assemble your puppet.

Coloring activity

Puzzles

Learn more about Nowruz traditions

We’re celebrating Nowruz by sharing traditions of the holiday as well as some of the ways that we’ve celebrated at the National Museum of Asian Art in the past. Share your thoughts with us in the comment sections of these blogs.

Discover art and music

Enjoy exhibitions currently on view at the museum and explore our Nowruz video library, which highlights collections, performances, and past celebrations.

On View

Fashioning an Empire: Safavid Textiles from the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

On view until May 15, 2022

Luxury textiles played a critical role in the social, cultural, religious, and economic life of Safavid Iran (1501–1722). Used for clothing, furnishing, and movable architecture, fabrics also functioned as important symbols of power and as ubiquitous forms of artistic expression.


Detail of a black, white and red earthenware bowl, F1957.24

Engaging the Senses

Ongoing

As our experiences become increasingly mediated by digital technologies, direct sensory perception and appreciation of the world have become all the more important. The sound of a voice, the glimpse of a painting, the taste of food, the touch of fabric, the scent of a flower—all stimulate the senses. According to classical and Arab philosophy, the five outer senses—sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell—are directly connected to the inner senses that define us as human beings: understanding, imagination, and memory.


Detail of chased silver metalwork with gilding, depicting a Persian hunter on horseback nocking an arrow to shoot a boar.Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran

Ongoing

The wealth and power of ancient Iran was in part expressed in portable luxury objects fashioned from precious metals and decorated with royal imagery.


Video Library

Music Podcasts

Show your festive spirit on Zoom

Join your next Zoom call with a newly designed Zoom background using artworks from the National Museum of Asian Art.

Nowruz at home photo gallery