Understanding the Persian New Year: Countries which celebrate Nowruz

Nowruz is an international festival!

It is a common misconception that Nowruz is an Iranian-only event. This notion is not entirely accurate, with several countries in Europe and Asia celebrating the coming of Spring as part of remnants of much older culture which spanned the length of the Persian Empire of yesteryear.

It’s true that many people associate the Nowruz festival with Iran, and publicly before the fall of the Soviet Union, the Islamic Republic was the only government to officially celebrate the day. However, since several Central Asian and Caucuses countries regained their independence from Russia, they implemented the holiday at the start of Spring, helping give greater recognition of the ancient holiday.

The UN’s General Assembly recognised the International Day of Nowruz in 2010, describing it as a spring festival of Iranian origin, which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years.

Here is the list of countries in Europe and Asia which officially celebrate Nowruz.
  1. Afghanistan: March 21
  2. Albania: March 22
  3. Azerbaijan: March 20
  4. Georgia March 21
  5. Iran March 21
  6. Iraq (Kurdistan) March 21
  7. Kazakhstan March 21
  8. Kosovo: March 21
  9. Kyrgyzstan: March 21
  10. Mongolia (Bayan Olgii region)
  11. Tajikistan: March 20
  12. Turkmenistan: March 21
  13. Uzbekistan: March 21

Meanwhile, several other regions and countries across the world also celebrate the coming of spring, including, people in western China, southern Turkey, Pakistan, Syria, and many areas of south Russia.

What to know how to make a Haft Sin to celebrate Nowruz, now you can!

How to spell Nowruz?!

There are several spellings for the same holiday as different countries develop their own lexicon of words. Here are just some of the various spellings for the Persian New Year holiday, Mahasti Afshar previously discussed.

The correct spelling of the Persian word Nowruz/Noruz/Norooz, lit. “New Day,” is an old debate that resurfaced when the United Nations named March 21, the “International Day of Nowruz” and more recently, when the “Nowruz resolution” was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Lack of a standardized transliteration of this celebrated word has elicited questions and comments from many of our readers and members. Hence, this brief note.

Linguistically speaking, Nowruz is the most correct spelling, as it reflects the original Indo-European root that appears as nava (Sanskrit), nav (Avestan), new (English), neu (German), nuevo (Spanish), nou (Romanian), nouveau (French), naujas (Lithuanian) and in derivates such as navin in Persian, meaning “new”.

Nowruz is thus the preferred choice of the international community – UNESCO and the UN – as well as the Encyclopedia Iranica.

Some people reject “Nowruz,” however, because it suggests the sound “now,” instead of how the word sounds in Persian, namely, “no”. To this group, the preferred transliteration is Norouz, Norooz or other variations on that theme. Of course pronunciation doesn’t always follow, or guarantee, spelling, a case in point being “Iran,” which is spelled “correctly” but which many Americans pronounce as “eye-ran”.

To conclude, for anyone interested in standardization, Nowruz seems to be the most reasonable transliteration based on the etymology and its official adoption by the international community.

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