What’s a haft seen?

Persian new year haft seen

Happy 1394! Nowruz (نوروز), also known as Persian New Year, is the beginning of the Iranian calendar year. It’s also a religious holiday for the Baha’i and Zoroastrian faiths, both of which originated in Iran. Nowruz is the same day as the Spring Equinox and marks the beginning of 1394.

This year, I’m documenting my haft seen table to give you all a little history behind the celebration, which is a huge deal to Iranians, Kurds, Afghans, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and those in the Zoroastrian and Baha’i faiths.

Haft sin (هفت سين) is a spread you put out for the new year, and it literally means “seven S,” which refers to the seven things on the table that start with the letter S. I posted a picture of haft sin items every day on Instagram with a short blurb that explains its significance for the holiday.

I got the idea watching Iranian-American taste makers like Pretty Please Design and Fig & Quince, which have done some beautiful and educational things about the holiday.

I’ll also be including some items that aren’t technically part of the haft sin, but are usually included, like hyacinths (which are “sonbol” in Persian, so they fit well). Hyacinths bloom in the spring with a beautiful scent, and represent spring in a haft sin.

Hyacinth for haft sin

Haft seen tables usually include a mirror, which represents reflection and the sky, and is a carryover from the haft sin’s pre-Islamic Zoroastrian origins.

White frame mirror

Candles are another item included on the haft seen table because of its Zoroastrian origins. They symbolize fire and enlightenment.

I love these candles because they have one of the words for “love” written on them: a reminder to myself to be kinder in the new year, and to not take those I love for granted.

Candles with Persian writing

Another item on the haft sin are eggs, which symbolize fertility. The eggs are often painted and colored, just like Easter eggs. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I love the look of glittered eggs!

Silver glittered eggs for spring

Another traditional item on a haft sin is  goldfish, which represent joy and life.

Normally, live goldfish are used in the haft seen. I haven’t done this because I don’t have the proper tank, equipment, or time to properly care for goldfish, which shouldn’t be kept in the small bowls usually included in the haft seen decorations. And using a live animal as pure decoration seems really cruel.

So I’ve purchased some lovely goldfish figurines for my haft seen–I’ll be able to use them year after year!

Goldfish for haft sin

Now the real haft seen fun begins!

Haft sins always include apples (سيب) to represent beauty and health, and garlic (سير) to represent medicine and health. Health is a gift we often take for granted, so it’s important to give thanks for it when starting a new year.

persian new year table items

Sprouts (سبزه) symbolize rebirth, letting us know that winter will soon be over!

Wheat sprouts for haft seen

Traditionally, a sweet pudding called “samanoo” would symbolize wealth. I have no idea where I’d find wheat germ pudding, so I went the literal route with gold coins (سكه), which are often included on the haft sin anyway.

My dad still gives me a gold coin every year for Norooz!

Sekkeh for haft sin

Vinegar, sumac, and rose water are always on the haft sin. Vinegar (سركه) symbolizes patience and wisdom, sumac (سماق) symbolizes the sunrise, and rose water (گلاب) represents love. Normally, love is represented by dried oleaster fruit, but that’s another thing I have no idea how to get my hands on. So I hope you don’t mind the substitute.

Items on the haft seen

I haven’t included it in my haft seen, but one thing that is almost always present is some type of holy book or poetry book. Many people will use a book of Hafez poems, but others with use their own holy book (like a Qur’an or a Ketab-e Aqdas). I didn’t include any books here purely for aesthetic reasons.

Here’s the full haft sin!

Persian new year haft seen

Today is the beginning of spring and of a new year. May it be a beautiful one for you and your loved ones; wishing you much happiness, love, and success in 1394!

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