03/20/2014 02:46 EDT | Updated 03/22/2019 11:06 EDT

Norooz Haft-Seen: What Symbolizes The Persian New Year

Amin Mohammad Jamali via Getty Images
Green sprouts are sold in samll clay containers at a market in Tehran in Tajrish Square, a special items to celebrate Nowruz on March 19, 2014 in Tehran, Iran. Iranians traditionally mark the New Year with goldfish, grass, candles and other items. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)

Like any other holiday, Norooz, or Nowruz, has specific food associated with its celebrations. But for the Persian new year, it goes beyond traditions like fruitcake for Christmas. Instead, at the very centre of this holiday is the haft-seen spread.

In the Zoroastrian homes honouring Norooz, seven items are laid on a sofra, or spread, each beginning with "se" or the letter "Seen." According to My Persian Kitchen, they are the following:

1. Somagh (sumac) : symbolizing the colour of sunrise

2. Serkeh (vinegar): symbolizing age and patience

3. Senjed (dried fruit from lotus tree): symbolizing love

4. Samanoo (sweet pudding): symbolizing affluence

5. Sabzeh (sprouts): symbolizing rebirth

6. Sib (apple): symbolizing health and beauty

7. Sir (garlic): symbolizing medicine

Depending on the family's tradition, there may be other items on the spread, such as sepand (seeds of wild rue) and sekka (new coins), says the Encylopedia Iranica. And then there are the things that don't start with "sheen," like "tokhmeh morgh" (eggs, for fertility) and mahi (fish, for life).

Does your family include other items on their haft-seen? Let us know in the comments below!

CORRECTION - March 22, 2019: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced haft-sheen instead of haft-seen.

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