Nowruz (Persian: نوروز, literally "New Day") is the name of the Persian New Year, and has been celebrated by Iranian peoples worldwide as the beginning of the new year for over 3000 years.
Nowruz is the day of the astronomical vernal equinox (or northward equinox), which marks the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere and usually occurs around March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and families gather together to observe the rituals.
Although having Persian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
Before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iran was the only country that officially observed the ceremonies of Nowruz. When the Central Asian and Caucasus countries gained independence from the Soviets, they also declared Nowruz as a national holiday. 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. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009, Nowruz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
According to Persian scholar Abu Rayhan Biruni, it is the belief of the Persians that Nowruz marks the first day when the universe started its motion.
Zoroastrians worldwide celebrate Nowruz as the first day of the New Year. Parsi Zoroastrians of Central Asian origin celebrate it as "Nowroj", "Navroz", or "Navroj" on the fixed day of March 21, while Zoroastrians of Iranian background generally celebrate, like other Iranians, on the actual Spring Equinox date. Because different Zoroastrian communities in India/Pakistan and Iran have evolved slightly different calendar systems, there is some variance. Adherents of the Fasli variant of the Zoroastrian calendar celebrate Nowruz in March, but today, most other Zoroastrians also celebrate on this day.
Zoroastrians of Iranian origin generally put up a Haft Sheen table while Muslim Iranians put up Haft Seen table. The difference is because Muslims can not put wine (Sharab) on the table. Zoroastrians of Parsi (South Asian) origin do not traditionally use a Haft Seen. They set up a standard "sesh" tray – generally a silver tray, with a container of rose water, a container with betel nut, raw rice, raw sugar, flowers, a picture of Zarathustra and either a floating wick in a glass filled with water topped with oil for fuel, or an "afargania", a silver urn with a small fire nourished by sandalwood and other fragrant resins.