Tag Archives: traditions

Focus on culture: The Khamsa amulet (or Hand of Fatima)

Author: Bluewind via Wikipedia Commons
Collection of various Khamsa

Today’s blog post will take us to Israel and the Near East as well as to North Africa and to an ancient symbol of good luck and an amulet to ward off the Evil Eye, namely the Hamsa or Khamsa, which is also known as the Hand of Fatima or the Hand of Miryam. The Hamsa is a symbol of good luck in the Muslim and Jewish, but also Christian culture of the region.

The name hamsa (חַמְסָה ) comes from the Arabic word khamsa خمسة‎‎ and from the Hebrew word hamesh  חמש , both meaning ‘five’. In Berber, the Khamsa is called ⵜⴰⴼⵓⵙⵜ Tafust. In a Jewish context, the five fingers of the talisman refer to the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and the Jewish Hamsa is also called the Hand of Miriam, who was Moses’ sister. In a Muslim context, the hamsa is also called the Hand of Fatima, who was one of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughters, and the five fingers refer to the Five Pillars of Islam (faith, fasting, prayer, tax and pilgrimage). The number five itself is also associated with fighting the Evil Eye. In the Levantine Christian community, the Khamsa is also called Hand of the Virgin Mary (Kef Miryam in Arabic).

The Khamsa usually takes the form of an open hand with three extended middle fingers and a thumb and pinky finger on either side, which are always symmetrical and are either curved outwards or just significantly shorter than the middle fingers. The fingers can be either closed together to bring good luck as a talisman, or alternatively the fingers can be spread apart to act as an amulet to ward off evil. Usually, the image of an eye is embedded in the palm. It represents the all-seeing eye and is said to watch out for the owner and to protect them from the Evil Eye, or ayin hara (עין הרע).  Other symbols that frequently appear on the Khamsa are fish  דָגִים   dagim, which are said to be immune to the evil eye since they live underwater (according to a line in the Torah “the water covers the fish of the sea so the eye has no power over them (Berakhot 55b)”) and which are also symbols of good luck. Also the Star of David מָגֵן דָוִד Magen David, prayers for the traveller, the Shema  שְׁמַע, the blessing over the house, the Hebrew word  mazal or mazel  מַזָל, meaning ‘luck’, and the colours red and blue, which reputedly repel the evil eye, are often featured on the talisman.

The Khamsa is an ancient symbol that probably predates Judaism and Islam, though its precise origin is not known. The symbol of the open hand first appears in Paleolithic cave art in Spain, France, Argentina, Algeria and Australia. Predecessors of the hand symbol can be found in various ancient cultures: The Phoenician goddess Tanit was symbolized by a woman raising her hands, and in Egyptian art, the human spirit ka is depicted by two arms whose two fingers are held in a horseshoe shape and which reach upward. The Etruscans decorated their tombs with paintings of hands with horns and some Jewish Levite graves had images of hands, representing a religious blessing, on their stone markers.

The Khamsa first appeared in Sephardic Jewish culture תרבות ספרדית , which flourished alongside Muslim culture. The symbol of the hand, and in particular of priestly hands, can also be found in kabbalistic manuscripts and amulets, where it doubles as the letter Shin, which is also the first letter of the divine name Shaddai. This association of the hand with the divine name was believed to create a bridge between the believer and G’d. However, amulets or kamiyot קמיעות , from the Hebrew word for ‘to bind’ , are seen as somewhat ambivalent in Judaism, because the Torah prohibits magic and divination, whereas the Talmud mentions them on several occasions and accepts them, and one law approves the wearing of an amulet on the Shabbat (Shabbat 53a, 61a).

In Islamic folklore, the Hand of Fatima as a symbol has its origins in a legend: when Fatima’s husband Ali brought home a new wife one day, Fatima, who had been cooking at that moment, dropped the ladle she was using and, lost in thought, continued stirring with her hand, hardly noticing that she was burning herself.

The Hamsa is intrinsically bound up with the concept of the Evil Eye or Ayin hara ( Hebrew ʿáyin hā-ráʿ (עַיִן הָרַע‎), Arabic ʿayn al-ḥasūd (عين الحسود‎ eye of the envious)), or the belief that a malicious look can bring about evil, which most often manifests itself through jealousy, but receiving the evil eye can also lead to misfortune and injury. To ward off the evil eye, many Jews will say ‘bli ayin hara’ בלי עין הרע (‘without an evil eye’) or ‘keyn eina hara’ קיין עין־הרע (Yiddish: no evil eye) after making a compliment or saying something positive. Muslims will say ‘Masha’Allah’ ” (ما شاء الله‎) (“God has willed it.”) and also “Tabarakallah” (تبارك الله‎) (“Blessings of God”) instead. Some people also use the saying ‘khamsa fi ainek’ خمسة في عينيك (lit. ‘five in your eye’) together with the gesture of their raised right hand with the palm showing and the fingers held slight apart, or  use the phrase ‘khamsa wa khamis’ خمسة والخميس  (lit. ‘five and Thursday’), since Thursday, being the fifth day of the week, was traditionally considered to be a good day for magic rituals and for pilgrimages to the tombs of saints.

The evil eye is also discussed in the Talmud תַּלְמוּד and the Kabbalah קַבָּלָה , though it is not mentioned in the Torah תּוֹרָה.

Other methods to ward off the evil eye in Jewish culture, besides hanging up or wearing a Hamsa, include wearing a Chai (חי) around the neck, symbolizing life ( Hebrew Chaya חַיָה life) or wearing a red thread around the wrist.

Author: Jehoshuapinto via Wikipedia commons
Chai symbol




Hebrew vocabulary: Rosh Hashana

This week’s blog post is taking us to Israel and to the Jewish diaspora again and we are going to look at the vocabulary related to the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana ראש השנה, which was celebrated this week, and the foods that are usually eaten on this holiday (these vary depending on the country of origin).


Focus on architecture: Badgir or Malqaf (windcatchers)



Today’s blog post is taking us to the Middle East again, to Persia, India and the Arab world, and to a special architectural feature of these hot regions of Asia, namely the so-called badgir or windcatcher (wind tower) (Persian: بادگیر bâdgir, from bâd ‘wind’ + gir ‘catcher’, Arabic malqaf  الملاقف )(Arabic: also known as barjeel  بارجيل )


The Badgir can be found in all regions of Asia which were historically influenced by the Persian Empire. It is a windcatcher or windscoop that usually takes the form of a tower or turret and which is installed on roofs, often one for each room. It is usually built in a fixed position on the roof with one downward opening since the locally prevailing winds always blow from the same direction. The badgir tower has small slots or vents which admit the wind and deflect it down a shaft, which often reaches to the ground floor, and at the bottom of which is an opening. Air circulation is guaranteed by the difference in air pressure on the wind side and leeward side of the house. The air flowing into the interior of the building can still be warmer than the air already inside, but a cooling effect is achieved by the enhanced evaporation caused by the constant airflow, which moves humid and stale air. To increase the cooling effect, water vessels are often placed inside the shaft or damp straw mats are hung across the vent.

The badgir‘s effectiveness in cooling has led to its being used as a refrigerating device, e.g. for water reservoirs (Ab anbar) (Farsi: ab anbar آب انبار‎‎  ab = ‘water’, anbar ‘storage facility’).

Badgirs have been in use for at least 500 years, their exact origin being uncertain, but they have already been known in Ancient Egypt.


Author: Guillaume Blanchard, via Wikipedia Commons Maison miniature : Pièce de jeu (?) en ivoire provenant d’une tombe d’Abou Roach (près du Caire) contemporaine du roi Den (Période thinite)

An interesting article on ab anbars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ab_anbar

Is there also a similar architectural device in your culture?? Tell us about it in the comments! 🙂


Focus on culture: Święconka in Poland


Author: Błażej Benisz via Wikipedia Commons Deacon blessing the Easter food (Święconka), Ołtarzew, Poland 2007

Today’s blog post is taking up the topic of my last blog post, and is keeping us in Poland and in Eastern Europe for a little while longer.

Easter is an important holiday in Poland and a popular Polish Easter tradition is the ‘blessing of the Easter baskets’,  or Święconka [ɕvʲɛnˈtsɔnka], on Easter or Holy Saturday. Baskets lined with a white linen or a lace or embroidered napkin are decorated with evergreen twigs of bukszpan (boxwood) and ribbons, and filled with a selection of Easter foods and are then taken to church to be blessed.

The foods in the basket all have a special symbolic meaning:

  • chleb (bread), symbolizing Jesus
  • jaja (eggs) [jaja na twardo barwione w łupinkach cebulihard-boiled eggs dyed in onion skins] , symbolizing Christ’s resurrection
  • kiełbasę (sausage) or ham, symbolizing abundance
  • sól i pieprz (salt and pepper), symbolizing purification
  • owieczka (a lamb), either as a figurine or as a cake or bread in lamb-shape, symbolizing Christ
  • chrzan (horseradish), symbolizing the bitter sacrifice of Christ

Depending on the parish, the baskets are either lined up on tables or taken to the front of the altar in a procession of the parishioners. The priest or deacon then sprinkles the baskets with holy water, using either a straw brush or a metal aspergillum (i.e. a liturgical sprinkling wand). Special prayers addressing the various contents of the baskets, i.e. the eggs, cakes, meat, etc., are said. Traditionally, the blessed food remains untouched either until Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

The Christian custom of Easter eggs has a long history, reaching as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, where early Christians stained eggs red in memory of the blood shed by Christ at his crucifixion. The Church officially adopted this custom, and eggs came to symbolize the resurrection of Christ: The hard egg shell symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ, which, when cracked open, symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the empty tomb left behind. Another interpretation sees the egg as being dormant, while containing seed for new life and renewal.

The custom of Easter baskets is also observed in some other Slavic countries, like Croatia.

Is there a similar custom in your country or region? Tell us about it in the comments! 🙂


Focus on culture: Śmigus-Dyngus in Poland


Author: Nationwide Specialty Co., Arlington, Texas — In Buffalo, N.Y., Stanley Novelty Co., 200 S. Ogden St., via Wikipedia Commons

Today’s blog post is taking us to Central and Eastern Europe, in particular to Poland and one of its Easter customs called Śmigus-Dyngus. Variants of this custom are also observed in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Śmigus-Dyngus is celebrated on Easter Monday and is also known as  lany poniedziałek (‘Wet Monday’, or as Поливаний понеділок in Ukrainian). In the neighbouring countries, similar customs are Oblévačka (Czech) and Oblievačka (Slovak – both meaning ‘Watering’) and Vízbevető (‘Water Plunge Monday’ in Hungarian).

Traditionally, on Easter Monday boys are allowed to throw water over girls and spank them with pussy willow (Salix species) branches, even though this part of the tradition is less common nowadays. In former times, girls had to wait until the next day to do the same to boys on Easter Tuesday, but today everybody splashes everybody else with water on Monday. This custom is accompanied by a number of other rituals, like reciting verses or processions from door-to-door, and in some regions even involving boys dressed as bears. The origins of the custom are unclear but are thought to date to pagan times (before 1000 CE).

Pussy willow (Salix species) are the earliest signs of spring since the catkins appear long before the leaves, and are therefore a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Before the male catkins of the Salix plants come into full flower they are covered in fine, greyish fur, resembling that of tiny cats or ‘pussies’.


Śmigus-Dyngus  is actually a combination of two different customs, which long ago became merged. Śmigus refers to the water fight itself, whereas Dyngus refers to another custom according to which a girl, when threatened with a shower of water, could bribe herself out by offering a painted Easter egg (pisanka, plural pisanki) as a token. The term for this Easter egg had a German origin where it was called ‘dingei‘ (the egg that is owned) or ‘dingnis‘ (a ransom), which in Polish became ‘dyngus‘. During the Dyngus procession (chodzenie po dyngusie) , village boys went from door to door and recited verses and demanded gifts. The pisanki (painted Easter eggs) were thought to be magical charms that would bring good harvests, successful relationships and healthy childbirths.


Author: Opusztaszer via Wikipedia Commons, Húsvét Ópusztaszeren 2009, Hungary

Is there a similar tradition in your region or country? Tell us about it in the comments!! 🙂

Focus on culture: Martenitsa and Baba Marta (Bulgaria)


Author: Gustav @ Flickr, via Wikipedia Commons

Today’s blog post continues our culture series about interesting customs from all over the world and takes us to Bulgaria again and to Baba Marta Day with its Martenitsi which is celebrated on 1 March.

According to Bulgarian folklore Баба Марта, Baba Marta or ‘Grandma March’, is a grumpy old lady who is grudging at her two brothers and whose mood is said to determine the weather, so the sun only shines when she is smiling. There are different versions of the Baba Marta tale. One of them relates that Baba Marta is doing her spring cleaning on this day: While she is shaking her feather-filled blanket, all the feathers come out of it and fall down to Earth as the last snow of the year. This version of the tale has parallels to the German folktale of Mother Hulda (‘Frau Holle‘).

Bulgarians celebrate 1 March by observing the centuries-old custom of exchanging Мартеници Martenitsi in order to ask Baba Marta for mercy, in the hope that winter will pass faster and spring come sooner.

A Martenitsa (Bulgarian: мартеница, Macedonian: мартинка) is a small woollen ornament, made of red and white interwoven yarn, which usually takes the shape of two dolls, a male and a female. These are called Пижо и Пенда (Pizho and Penda): The male Pizho is predominantly white, while the female Penda is predominantly red and wears a skirt. Sometimes, the Martenitsi just take the shape of a red-and-white interwoven ribbon. The Martenitsi are good luck charms symbolizing health and happiness for the year and are said to protect against evil spirits. They are also a reminder that spring is near.


Author: Petko Yotov, via Wikipedia Commons Pizho and Penda

Traditionally, they are given away as gifts to friends and family, i.e. not bought for oneself, and are worn around the wrist or attached to one’s clothes for a certain period of time, usually until the first signs of spring appear, e.g. the sightings of a swallow, a stork or a crane, or blossoming trees. Then the Мартеници (Martenitsi) are removed. In the small mountain villages, people also decorate their homes and domestic animals with the Martenitsi. There are different rituals associated with the removal of the Martenitsi, which are different in every region. Some people tie their Martenitsi on a branch of a fruit tree, thereby also giving the tree the good luck that comes from the charm.Other people lay their Martenitsi under a rock, in the belief that the insect that will be closest to the charm the next morning will determine the owner’s health and luck for the rest of the year: If the insect is a worm червей or a larva ларви, the coming year will be full of success and health; if it is an ant мравка, the person will have to work hard to be successful; however, if the insect is a spider паяк, the person may not enjoy success or good health in the year to come.

The red and white colours of the charms are also associated with a colour symbolism: white бял symbolizes purity and red червен life and passion. At its origin, the custom therefore symbolized the cycles of life and death, good and evil, and of sorrow and happiness in human existence. White originally also stood for Man and the power of the sun, and under Christian influence came to stand for virginity and integrity and was the colour of Christ. Red stood for Woman and health, being a symbol of blood, conception and birth. The colours of the Martenitsi also symbolize Mother Nature: white symbolizes the purity associated with melting snow, while red stands for the colour of the setting sun.


Author: Danielgrad via Wikipedia Commons Magnolia full of tied Martenitsa, in Veliko Tarnovo (Велико Търново)

 The custom of exchanging Martenitsi is thought to have been inspired by an incident in the life of Bulgaria’s first Khan Аспарух (Asparuh), who sent a white string to his wife to let her know that he survived a battle. 

A similar tradition also exists in the Republic of Macedonia, as well as in Albania, Northern Greece, Romania and Moldova. Its origin derives from ancient pagan agricultural cults of nature common to the Balkan Peninsula. The specific ritual of tying red-and-white woolen strings suggests Thracian, Hellenic or even Roman origins of the tradition.

Is there a similar tradition associated with spring in your country or region? Tell us about it in the comments! 🙂



Focus on culture: Diwali, the Indian festival of lights

Author: peddhapati via Wikipedia Commons

Author: peddhapati via Wikipedia Commons

Today’s blog post is taking us to South Asia and to the Indian festival of Diwali (or Deepavali दीपावली, the “festival of lights”) which is celebrated at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin (आश्विन) and the start of the month of Kartika (कार्तिक), which begins with the new moon in November. Diwali is not only celebrated in India, but also in the Indian diaspora all over the world and is a public holiday in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Singapore, Malaysia and the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word Dīpāvali (from dīpa दीप, “light” or “lamp” and āvalī आवली, “series, line, row”), referring to a ‘row or series of lights’, because a central aspect of its celebration includes the display of lights around houses and temples and outside doors and windows.

Author: Ashish Kanitkar via Wikipedia Commons, indoor decoration for Diwali

Author: Ashish Kanitkar via Wikipedia Commons,
indoor decoration for Diwali

Deepavali dates back to ancient times and has its origins as a festival after the summer harvest in the month of Kartika (कार्तिक) . The festival is mentioned in Sanskrit scriptures, e.g. the Padma Purana पद्म पुराण and the Skanda Purana स्कन्द पुराण dating from around 750 -1000 CE, which are based on a core text from an earlier era.

Diwali is a five-day festival, which begins two days before the night of Diwali the night of the new moon and therefore the darkest night – and ends two days later, but preparations for Diwali begin days or weeks in advance. In the weeks before Diwali night, people clean and decorate their homes and offices for the festivities, and it is also one of the biggest shopping seasons in the countries where it is celebrated. People buy new clothes for themselves and gifts for family members and friends, as well as special sweets, called mithai मिठाई, dry fruits and seasonal and regional specialties. Deepavali is one of the happiest holidays that brings family and friends together every year and it is also a period when children are told ancient stories, legends, and myths about battles between good and evil or light and darkness from their parents and elders.

Author: robertsharp via Wikipedia Commons Diwali sweets (mithai)

Author: robertsharp via Wikipedia Commons
Diwali sweets (mithai)

Diwali night, the night of the new moon and darkest night of autumn, is lit with diyas दीपक, candles and lanterns. A diya (also called divaa, deepa, deepam, or deepak दीपक) is an oil lamp, usually made from clay, with a cotton wick dipped in ghee घी or vegetable oils.The diyas are mentioned in the Skanda Purana स्कन्द पुराण to symbolically represent parts of the sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the month of Kartik.

Author: HPNadig via Wikipedia Commons

Author: HPNadig via Wikipedia Commons

On Deepavali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (oil lamps and candles) inside and outside their home and participate in family puja पूजा (prayers), usually to Lakshmi लक्ष्मी, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Afterwards, fireworks (patakhe) follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and  friends. However, there are significant variations in regional practices and rituals.

Another custom during Diwali is to create rangoli and other patterns on floors near doors and walkways as sacred welcoming areas for Hindu deities. Rangoli रंगोली, also known as kolam or muggu, is an Indian folk art in which patterns, often geometric but also representational ones, are created on the floor in rooms or courtyards using natural materials such as colored rice, dry flour, turmeric (haldi हल्दी), vermillion (sindoor सिन्दूर), colored sand, flower petals, charcoal, burnt soil or wood sawdust. Some major symbols are the lotus flower and its leaves, mangoes, fish, different kind of birds like parrots, swans, peacocks, and human figures and foliage. Some special patterns for Diwali also include Ganesha or Lakshmi.  Many of these motifs are traditional and are handed down by the previous generations.

Author: Pon Malar via Wikipedia Commons Rangoli made for Diwali

Author: Pon Malar via Wikipedia Commons
Rangoli made for Diwali

Deepavali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on where they live.

In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras धनतेरस (in the Northern & Western part of India). This includes the cleaning and decoration of the houses, as well as the creation of rangoli. This day also marks the birthday of Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, and the birthday of Dhanvantari – the God of Health and Healing. On the night of Dhanteras, diyas are ritually kept burning all through the night in honor of these two deities.

The second day of Diwali is Naraka Chaturdashi नर्क चतुर्दशी on which rangoli are created, and in some regions people take a ritual fragrant oil bath, and participate in minor pujas (prayers).

The main festivities of Deepavali are on the third day, with people wearing their best outfits, feasting and fireworks at night. (see above)

It is also the day on which Lakshmi Puja लक्ष्मी पूजा – prayers to the goddess Lakshmi – take place, since Lakshmi is believed to roam the earth on Diwali night. On the evening of Diwali, people open their doors and windows to welcome Lakshmi, and place diya lamps on their windowsills and balcony ledges to invite her in. On this day, also mothers are recognized by the family as they are seen to embody a part of Lakshmi, and of the good fortune and prosperity of the household. Diyas are also set adrift on rivers and streams. The day is also an occasion to recognize relationships and friendships by visiting relatives and friends and through the exchange of gifts and mithai (sweets).

The fourth day of the festivites is known as Diwali Padva or Bali Pratipadā बालि प्रतिपदा and is dedicated to the wife–husband relationship, in which spouses exchange gifts.

The Diwali festivities end with Bhai Dooj भाई दूज (“Brother’s second”), which is dedicated to the sister–brother bond, on the fifth day. The day emphasizes the love and lifelong bond between siblings: women and girls get together to perform a puja (prayers) for the well-being of their brothers, and afterwards they have a sumptuous feast with their brothers.


Deepavali is also linked to the celebration of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and wife of the god Vishnu. Deepavali begins on the day Lakshmi was born from the churning of the cosmic ocean of milk by the gods and the demons; the night of Deepavali is the day Lakshmi chose Vishnu as her husband and then married him. Along with Lakshmi, devotees make offerings to Ganesha who symbolizes ethical beginnings and is a fearless remover of obstacles; Saraswati who symbolizes music, literature and learning; and Kubera who symbolizes book keeping, treasury and wealth management.

Author: nkjain via Wikipedia Commons रंगबिरंगी रंगोली पर सजा, तेल का जलता हुआ दीया। Burning oil lamp on a colourful rangoli designed on Diwali.

Author: nkjain via Wikipedia Commons
रंगबिरंगी रंगोली पर सजा, तेल का जलता हुआ दीया।
Burning oil lamp on a colourful rangoli designed on Diwali.

Nowruz, the Persian New Year


Today’s blog post is about the Persian New Year’s festival, called نوروز Nowruz or Nooruz, which literally means “new day”. Nowruz is celebrated on the spring equinox, which usually falls on 21 March and marks the beginning of the Persian calendar. The time for the equinox is calculated exactly each year and has a different time in different locations. Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and partly has its roots in Zoroastrianism. It is a public holiday in many countries of Central Asia, and it is an occasion for family and friends to gather and celebrate together.

A central feature of this celebration is the so-called Haft Seen table (هفت‌سین ) or the Seven S’s. These are 7 items that are placed on the table and which all start with the letter ‘S’:

  1. sabzeh ( سبزه‎)- wheat, barley, mung bean or lentil sprouts growing in a dish, often from seven different kinds of seeds – symbolizing rebirth
  2. samanu  (سمنو‎)- sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
  3. senjed  ( سنجد‎)- dried oleaster Wild Olive fruit – symbolizing love
  4. sir  (سیر‎)- garlic – symbolizing medicine
  5. sib  ( سیب‎)- apples – symbolizing beauty and health
  6. somaaq (سماق‎)- sumac fruit – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  7. serkeh  ( سرکه‎) – vinegar – symbolizing old age and patience

Other items on the table may include:

sekkeh (سکه) coins – symbolizing wealth

sonbol (سنبل) hyacinth – symbolizing fertility

– a mirror (ايبه) – symbolizing honesty and cleanness

– painted eggs – symbolizing fertility

– lit candles – symbolizing happiness and enlightenment

– a bowl of water with goldfish (ماهی قرمز )- “life within life”

– pomegranates (ابار)

– sprays of cypress or pine

– rosewater golab (گلاب ) – believed to have magical cleansing powers

– a holy book or a poetry book (very often the Divan of Hafiz or the Shahnameh)

aajeel ( اجیل)- dried nuts, berries, dates or raisins

– clay figurines of animals

The Haft Seen were originally called ‘Haft Chin’, the  word Chin (چین) meaning “to place” and Haft (هفت) the number seven. In this context the Haft Seen were associated with Zoroastrians deities or divinities and the elements represented by them:
– the mirror symbolized the Sky
– the apple symbolized the Earth
– the candles symbolized Fire
– the rosewater (golab) symbolized Water
– the sabzeh sprouts symbolized Plants
– the goldfish symbolized Animals
– the painted eggs symbolized humans and fertility
Fire is the symbol of Nowruz and people usually build a fire around which they celebrate and dance, often jumping over the flames. Another custom associated with this festival is to clean one’s home thoroughly before the holiday and to buy new clothes to wear.