In most parts of the world, religious holidays are also cultural holidays, and frequently, state holidays as well. Here in the Caucasus, we are most familiar with Passover and Easter, but the east of the world has a great smorgasbord of holidays to offer! Nowruz is one of them. Even though this is not an official holiday neither in Armenia, nor in Georgia, every year in March both countries do get to involve in this beautiful celebration more or less. The reason is Nowruz brings a lot of Iranian tourists to Armenia and Georgia, to the point that almost all the shops, squares and streets of Yerevan and Tbilisi are crowded with our neighbor visitors and their families.
That Nowruz is the Iranian New Year almost everyone knows, but few people are aware of the essence and meaning of this holiday. In fact, Nowruz is shared by many people in Turkey, the Crimea, the Balkans, China, areas of Greater Iran and many other areas of Asia. The name Nowruz means New Day. Nowruz is celebrated at the end of March and makes the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It's centered around the vernal equinox, which is usually around March 21 each year, when the sun goes directly over the equator, and the north and south poles of the Earth lie along the solar terminator; sunlight is evenly divided between the north and south hemispheres. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and makes night and day equal, is calculated precisely every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.
Nowruz is originally a Zoroastrian festival and is considered the holiest of them, however it doesn't have an exact date of origin.
How Nowruz is celebrated
Nowruz is proceeded by Khouneh Tekouni (house shaking) or spring cleaning of the house which is a national tradition in every Iranian house. People clean their houses and purchase new clothes and flowers. For twelve days people visit their elder family members and friends and on the thirteenth day they have picnic outdoors. There are a number of traditions associated with this celebration. Including Haft Sîn or the seven 'S's, which is the traditional table setting of Nowruz.
Across cultures, Nowruz is celebrated with slightly different traditions and customs, typical to the particular culture. Today it is becoming a tradition for Iranians to celebrate Nowruz abroad and they quite frequently choose Armenia. There are quite many reasons for it, including the fact that Armenia is a growing tourist destination offering rich cultural heritage and outstanding hospitality, besides this many Iranians believe that prices are more reasonable in Yerevan, yet another fact that deserves a mention, is that Armenia, as well as Georgia offer freer conditions for people to celebrate holidays and not only, namely you can wear anything you like (within reason), listen to any kind of music, walk without heads-scarves and use alcohol.
Even though there are some issues evoking little complaints, mainly taxi service (for high fees), Iranians do like Armenia and keep recommending it to their friends and relatives. It is estimated that last year about 28,000 Iranian tourists visited Armenia for Nowruz. Not bad, is it?