There's a Bull in the Cellar!
Today is the first day of spring, a.k.a. Persian New Year, or Nowruz if you're Iranian. My kids grew up celebrating this holiday, and two of them still live with me, so I usually celebrate it too. Persian New Year has religious significance if you go back far enough--to the Zooroastrians--but for Moslems, of course, it's a secular holiday. For Persians, Nowruz is New Year, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, and Easter all rolled into one. You've got your New Year traditions of cleaning the whole house to start the year off right, your Easter/spring traditions of coloring eggs, buying candy and flowers, and wearing new clothes, your Christmas traditions of gift-giving, your Thanksgiving feast, and your Hannukah days and days of celebrating.
Every Persian household needs to have a haft sin table. "Haft" means "seven" and "sin" is the letter "s." So: seven things that start with "s." Why they all have to start with "s" seems to have been lost in time. But anyway, I've got a sombol (hyacinth), sir (garlic), sib (apple), samovar, samanou (weird Persian pudding), sekkeh (gold coins), somaq (sumac berries), serkeh (vinegar), and sabzi (green herbs). That's more than seven! Also candles, a mirror, painted eggs, an orange in a bowl of water, and pictures of my two children who don't happen to be around this week.
The symbolism of most of these objects is pretty obvious. Eggs for fertility, candles for light, garlic for health, flowers for spring, etc., etc., etc. The bowl of water with the orange might need a little explaining. Supposedly, to the Zooroastrians, the earth was held up on the horns of a bull. Every year at the exact moment of Nowruz, he would shift the weight of the earth from one horn to the other. Supposedly, you can see the orange move in the water at that instant. I told that to my daughter when she was little and apparently scared the wits out of her for years to come. All she could imagine was a giant bull in the cellar. Sorry, Cordelia!