Iranians around the world are preparing to celebrate their traditional new year, Nowruz, which falls on Thursday. The ancient tradition is also celebrated by Kurds and marks the arrival of spring.
Iranians are shopping for traditional food and other items ahead of the Nowruz holiday, or Persian New Year. Celebrations will start on Thursday night, with music, dance and elaborate meals. A festive table traditionally includes seven dishes, known as "haft-seen," or “seven S's,” because their names start with the letter "S" in Persian.
"The haft-seen table setting includes hyacinth, samanu [sweet wheat pudding], sabze [wheat or lentil sprouts], colored eggs, sumac, wheat, garlic, senjed [dried oleaster], bread, cheese, green herbs, health and above all, the Quran," explained a Tehran resident.
Nowruz is a secular holiday, embraced by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds.
Tehran resident Amirali Hosseini said it symbolizes renewal.
"I am here to buy trail mix and cookies. For me, Nowruz brings about change in everything. Nowruz means renewal and rebirth, not only in nature but also in one's behavior and relationships," said Hosseini.
Nowruz is believed to have its roots in the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia. The tradition includes lighting fires on the last Tuesday before the new year. Zoroastrians considered fire a purifier of souls.
For most Iranians, it is a time to get together and rejoice.
"This is a new year for continuing our tradition of haft-seen. And also for friendships to grow closer and become better in time. That's it. And also to wish for good health," said a Tehran local.
The United Nations in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin, which has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years.