Thursday, 3 March 2016

Norooz, Persian New Year and Easter

If you'd asked me, a few years ago, when New Year is celebrated, I'd have been a bit taken aback. 

After all, it's obvious, isn't it, that the new year begins on January 1st and that's when, all over the world, we let off fireworks, sing 'Auld Lang Syne', drink toasts and generally do all sorts of daft party-ing things we wouldn't dream of doing at any other time!

But since I started designing greeting cards, I've learnt that there are many other 'New Year' dates, each with their own traditional ways of celebrating, mostly dictated by the other major World Religions.

You can read about them HERE.

Some, such as the Jewish Festival of Rosh Hashanah and the Hindu Diwali celebrations, are held in what we in the Northern Hemisphere would call Autumn or Fall. 

But other traditions, such as Now-ruz, the Persian New Year, celebrate the New Year in the Spring-time. 

That seems to make a lot of sense as the spring-time, with its signs of Nature's reawakening, certainly conveys a feeling of renewal, a fresh start, of leaving the past (winter) behind. 

You can see HERE that some of the traditional Norooz symbols have to do with the arrival of spring and I've included them in Greeting Cards and Gifts for the Persian New Year -

Click on the image to see the full Persian New Year collection of Greeting Cards and Gifts

In some ways, it would make sense if Easter was also celebrated as the beginning of a new year. And here's why -

Probably the most important date in the Christian Calendar, Easter - marking the end of the fasting month of Lent, through Maundy Thursday, leading up to Good Friday and culminating in Easter Sunday - is celebrated in the Spring. So, although, Easter is not regarded as a New Year's celebration, it has many of the connotations of renewal in common with the Persian New Year.

One of the Norooz traditions is the thorough cleaning of the house, prior to the beginning of the celebration. And, although, thanks to modern household appliances, we probably do far less 'spring-cleaning' nowadays than our parents and grandparents did, the Spring still seems to be the time when we are most likely to be inspired to carry out home decorating and repairs - at least, that's the time when the paint manufacturers seem to target us with their advertisements! 

And of course, there's a parallel between the buying of new clothes and the largely forgotten tradition of
 Easter Bonnet Parades!

So it wouldn't be particularly surprising if so-called 'Christian' countries celebrated Easter as the New Year, instead of January 1st, especially as Easter has its roots in pagan polytheistic celebrations of the spring solstice. 

And it would certainly do away with those awkward six days between Christmas and New Year that Michael McIntyre characterises so brilliantly!

But we don't - we attach our New Year celebrations to the idea of the Gregorian Calendar in which the New Year runs from January 1st - December 31st.

However, as a greeting card designer, there are similarities between the Persian New Year symbols and those associated with Easter; the spring flowers, the decorated eggs (or chocolate ones!) being the most obvious ones.

But whereas 'gold fish in a bowl' are part of the traditional Now-ruz celebrations, Easter has appropriated the Easter Bunny from its pagan roots as a symbol of new life and fertility.

Alongside the Easter Bunnies and sometimes some newborn lambs, we've adopted Baby Chicks and Ducklings to represent Easter. 

Swan Meadow, Abergavenny

Soon after I moved to Wales, I saw an advertisement for a Duck Race and as it was to be held in a little park, Swan Meadow, quite close to where I live, I was curious enough to go along. The River Gavenny runs alongside the Swan Meadow (to the right in the photo) before it joins the much larger River Usk in Castle Meadows. And as there are some apparently man-made dams, I assumed these would play a part in the race-course. I was right! I arrived to find hundreds of bright yellow plastic ducks, lined up along the first dam, ready for the off! What a let-down!

Relatively few people send Easter Cards in the UK, though apparently the market for religious Easter Cards is growing -

But the Easter celebratory food, such as Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday and Chocolate Eggs on Easter Sunday are well established and seem set to continue, in spite of the traditional Simnel Cake for Easter having virtually disappeared, along with Easter Bonnets.

are some Easter customs you may not have come across - 
I certainly hadn't heard of the more obscure ones!

So how do you celebrate Easter? Is it primarily a religious festival where you live? Or is it all about Easter Eggs and Bunnies made from chocolate?

I'd love to hear from you!

You can find lots more 
Easter Cards and Easter Gifts
in my

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