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What Is Norooz, The Persian New Year, All About? (PHOTOS)

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Norooz, or Nowruz, the Persian New Year, happens this week.

Coinciding with the Spring Equinox, its name combines two Persian words: "now," which means new, and "ruz," which means day. It's a time of year in which followers celebrate the coming of spring and the renewal of nature, according to Timeanddate.com.

The official date and time for the new year is March 20 at 8:27 p.m. local time in Tehran, according to Farsinet.

Though secular, Norooz has roots in Zoroastrianism, a religion that focuses on the corresponding work of good and evil in the world and humans' connection to nature, notes Harvard University.

Chahar Shanbe Suri, a fire-jumping tradition that is celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year, precedes the new year itself.

Traditionally, people gather around small bonfires in the street and leap over them shouting, "Zardie man az to, sorkhie to az man," a Persian phrase that means, "May my sickly pallor be yours and your red glow be mine." The ritual is meant to wash away all the terrible events of the past year.

In recent years, with an eye to safety, some people just light a fire and shout the phrase without coming too close to the flames.

When Norooz arrives, families gather together and say, "Sal-e no mobarak," or "Happy new year!" The oldest member of the family then gives treats and candy to everyone and young children receive coins as presents. Families and neighbours also visit and exchange gifts with each other.

One of the most important Norooz traditions is the "Sofreh-e Haft Seen," a ceremonial table where all dishes begin with the Persian letter "Seen," explains Farsinet.

Dishes include "sabzeh" or sprouts, which represent rebirth; "seeb" or apples, which signify rebirth and beauty; and "serkeh" or vinegar, which stands in for age and patience.

The Associated Press caught some spectacular photos of Chahar Shanbe Suri being celebrated ahead of Norooz at Pardisan Park in Tehran, Iran on Tuesday.

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

nowruz 2014

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