Shahin Bekhradnia Speaks About Nowruz at the House Of Lords in the United Kingdom


April 19, 2024

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The celebration of Nowruz is becoming better known these days, possibly because UNESCO recognized it in 2010  as an Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  And Wikipedia, calling it Persian New Year,  lists around 20 countries where it is currently celebrated.

Yet, as Shahin Bekhradnia explained in the House of Lords just one month ago on Nowruz morning, few people today realise that it has survived as a celebration of spring since ancient times among those different peoples today because they were  influenced by the Zoroastrian culture of the 3 pre-Islamic Persian Empires (hence Persian new year).  The thrill and joy of the return of spring should not be underestimated after months when everything is dormant. So Nowruz on the spring equinox (new light/day) is a celebration of the return of life within nature.


Shahin explained that the tradition of setting out a table or sofreh with 7 items differs in content in some of these contemporary cultures (eg 7 fruits in Afghanistan, 7 trays of sprouting seeds in parts of  Kurdistan, 7 items beginning with the letter ‘S’ in most of Iran), but the significant element is the  consistent presence of 7 in all of these customs.  The tradition of 7 is associated with the 7 Zoroastrian Amesha Sepenta, each of which symbolizes one of the life sustaining aspects of nature.   In Shahin’s Zoroastrian family culture, the table always includes the essential presence of Fire (Asha Vahishta=Ordibehesht), representing light, purity & truth, Milk & Cheese (Vohu Manah=Bahman) representing rightful thinking & the animal world, metal coins (Khshatra Vairyo=Shahrivar)representing strength & determination, Soil of the Earth (Spenta Armaity=Sepandarmazd/Esfand) symbolising motherhood, love, & humility,  Water (Hvauratat=Khordad) symbolising fertility, abundance and health, while  Plants (Ameretat=Mordad) represent long life, or  immortality through the legacy of a good name achieved through good deeds. 

And all the other joy-giving items on the sofreh derive from plants: the sweets, the wine, the fragrant flowers, the medicinal herbs and berries, the fruit, the rose water, the sprouting wheat/lentil shoots, the fronds of evergreens – all of these in turn are the outcomes of fire, earth and water cooperating together and put to work in harmony by the mind of humans to ensure food and pleasure!

There’s certainly plenty to celebrate about the return of spring. But it’s also a real chance to stop for a minute to appreciate the wonders of nature – its harmony & regularity.

Most of the invited audience to this splendid celebratory gathering were unaware that the contemporary 12 names of the months in Iran, are in fact the Zoroastrian names of the 12 months, 7 of which are those of the  Amesha Spenta, the remaining 5 being names in honour of the spirit of wisdom,  a star, of Mithra , water & fire.

The inspiring meeting which included several other speakers was coordinated by Stage of Freedom. This movement is dedicated to the restoration of basic human rights in Iran as well as the preservation of ancient Iranian culture & values.   Fortunately there are like minded people in the Palace of Westminster who are prepared to sponsor such an event.



1 Comment

  1. Pip palmer

    How interesting how different cultures celebrate the return of spring