“From the era of Kai Khusraw till the days of Yazdegard..." - Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is celebrated on the first day of spring.

20 March: Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is celebrated on the first day of spring.

“From the era of Kai Khusraw till the days of Yazdegard, last of the pre-Islamic kings of Persia, the royal custom was thus: on the first day of the New Year, Now Ruz, the King's first visitor was the High Mobad of the Zoroastrians, who brought with him as gifts a golden goblet full of wine, a ring, some gold coins, a fistful of green sprigs of wheat, a sword, and a bow. In the language of Persia he would then glorify God and praise the monarch. This was the address of the High Mobad to the king : "O Majesty, on this feast of the Equinox, first day of the first month of the year, seeing that thou hast freely chosen God and the Faith of the Ancient ones; may Surush, the Angel-messenger, grant thee wisdom and insight and sagacity in thy affairs. Live long in praise, be happy and fortunate upon thy golden throne, drink immortality from the Cup of Jamshid; and keep in solemn trust the customs of our ancestors, their noble aspirations, fair gestures and the exercise of justice and righteousness. May thy soul flourish; may thy youth be as the new-grown grain; may thy horse be puissant, victorious; thy sword bright and deadly against foes; thy hawk swift against its prey; thy every act straight as the arrow's shaft. Go forth from thy rich throne, conquer new lands. Honor the craftsman and the sage in equal degree; disdain the acquisition of wealth. May thy house prosper and thy life be long!" (“Nowruznama”, attributed to Omar Khayyam)

A Zoroastrian bas-relief from the old Achaemenid royal palace and ceremonial capital Persepolis, destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, depicting the powers of the Earth, the bull, locked in a fight with the sun, the lion, symbolising equality of both on March 21st's spring equinox.

Sine ages lions and kings were almost congruent in the ancient Iranian cultural circle, up to a linguistic consonance, with “shah” meaning king and “sher”, lion. The other association with Iranian royalty was the sun and the three images, the king, the lion and the sun merged in local mindscape, the Persian king-of-kings were called the “Sun of the East”, in contrast to the Roman emperors being the “Moon of the West” and lions and the sun became part of the royal coat-of-arms until Reza Pahlavi was overthrown in 1979. It was in those days of the Sassanian dynasty that the sun god culminated into an amalgam of Apollo and Mithras with the radiant crown worn by the Western Sol Invictus, became the patron deity of the kings. Naturally, the date when day and night became equal in length again, the spring equinox around March 20, was of special significance. It marked the beginning of the New Year since olden times and since the 2nd century CE, the day was called Nowruz, the New Day.

Sol and Mithras banqueting with Luna and the twin divinities Cautes and Cautopates

Xenophon described the New Year’s celebrations at the court of the Achaemenids almost 2,500 years ago and Nowruz is celebrated traditionally everyplace where the first superpower of Antiquity, the Persian Empire, had at least a bit of influence, continued into modern days by various religious traditions and cultures from the Balkans to Arabs, Turks and Mongols and was recognised by the UN as International Day of Nowruz to "draw on the holiday's rich history to promote peace and goodwill". And while Nowruz was one of the seven most important festivals in the Zoroastrian tradition, it is, despite its decidedly pre-Muslim roots, still the most important holiday in Iran, with a lot of festive traditions, celebrated by Iranian communities all across the world along with the traditional greeting "Eid-i shoma mobarak!" (May you have an auspicious new year!).

A depiction of a traditional Nowruz Ceremony, together with a Haft Sin table and the reading of poetry, either from the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz

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