Students Celebrate Persian New Year

Students, faculty, and Cambridge and Boston residents celebrated Nowruz, the traditional Iranian New Year, at the Student Organization Center at Hilles on Thursday evening.

Nowruz, which celebrates nature, occurs each year at the vernal equinox. At Thursday’s event, dozens of attendees gathered to socialize, enjoy live performances, and learn about Persian culture. The occasion was titled “Nowruz 1395,” which represents the 1395th year in the Persian calendar.

Aftab Dance Group
Members of the Aftab Dance Group, a traditional Persian dance troupe based in Boston, perform during the Nowruz celebration in the SOCH on Thursday evening. The event was hosted by the Harvard Iranian Student Association.

The celebration, jointly organized by the Harvard College Iranian Association, the Harvard Iranian Students Association, and the Persian Caucus, featured traditional music, dance, and a speech on Persian poetry by Justine K. Landau, assistant professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

Upon entering the venue, attendees were greeted with a Haft-Seen table, which features an elaborate arrangement of seven symbolic items that all begin with the letter seen, or ‘s’, in the Persian alphabet.

According to Sam Sinai, a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Haft-Seen is “equivalent to the Christmas tree.”


“Where people use [the tree as a symbol of Christmas], Haft-Seen is what Iranians use as a symbol of Nowruz,” he said.

Landau highlighted that Iranians are not the only people that celebrate the holiday.

“It’s celebrated in many other countries, by Iranian people, by different ethnicities and religions and nationalities,” she said. “It’s celebrated throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.”

Several attendees said they enjoyed spending the evening together as a close group.

“We normally celebrate Nowruz because there is a very closely knit Iranian community in the Boston area,” said Shadi Saraf, an Iranian student at Bentley University who attended the event. “So, everybody knows somebody and they just gather.”

According to Sinai, Nowruz, which marks the beginning of festivities that last 12 days, is the most important holiday for Iranian-Americans.

“It’s sort of like our Christmas to New Year’s period,” he said. “It is an excuse to bring together the Iranian community of Harvard.”