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Nowruz Mobarak! Happy New Year!

Lorna Johnston /Monday, March 18, 2024

Nowruz Mobarak! Happy New Year!

For many in the northern hemisphere, the first day of Spring (this year falling on March 19th) is a cause for hope and anticipation. Warmer weather, sunshine, and outdoor living is just around the corner.

But for people from places that have been influenced by Persian culture, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and the countries of Central Asia the spring equinox marks Nowruz, their New Years Day, and the start of thirteen days of celebration.

With roots in Zoroastrianism and based on the Iranian Solar Hijri calendar, the focus of this ancient celebration is the victory over darkness as (in the northern hemisphere) days now become longer than nights.

Like any cultural celebration, Nowruz is associated with several traditions: Houses are given their ‘spring cleaning,’ fresh flowers such as tulips and hyacinths are displayed, new clothes may be purchased to wear when visiting family and friends, and traditional foods are prepared and served.

As a centrepiece of the celebrations, the Haft-Sin table is covered with a special cloth and carefully arranged with seven traditional items including sprouted grains, dried fruit, garlic, apples, and vinegar. Other symbols of rebirth and renewal, such as goldfish, candles, and eggs also find their place there.

While the celebration of Nowruz varies between ethnic communities, it is an important celebration—including among the diaspora here in Canada. Perhaps even some of your neighbours are celebrating Nowruz?

Here are some ways to pray for those who are celebrating Nowruz:

  1. The foundation of Nowruz is rebirth and renewal, a longing of human hearts. Real rebirth is found only in Jesus Christ.
    Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." John 3:3 
    - Pray that many who celebrate Nowruz will find real rebirth in Jesus Christ this Spring.
  2. This year Ramadan and Nowruz bump into each other on the calendar. Ramadan is a month of fasting (read our blog about it here) while Nowruz is a celebration marked by feasts. Nowruz predates Islam, and while Muslim teaching is clear that Nowruz is a ‘pagan’ festival and not to be observed, many who would call themselves Muslims will nonetheless be celebrating Nowruz.
    - Pray that the dissonance between Islam and Zoroastrianism would start many on a search for what is real and true and good.
    - Pray that they would discover Jesus, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

  3. How did you meet Jesus? Most likely part of your story included someone in your life, showing you the way to him, companioning your journey of discovery.
    “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” John 4:19 
    - Pray that God would give you friends from these diaspora communities, whom you can companion on their Journey of Discovery.

May this season of renewal inspire us to extend a hand of friendship to our neighbours celebrating Nowruz, sharing in their joy and traditions while also sharing the timeless message of faith and renewal found in Christ.

Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams -- Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC) and Loving Muslims Together (LMT). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.


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