Iranians on Sunday marked the beginning of the new Persian year, Nowruz, amid festivities dampened by restrictions against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Nowruz, which translates into “new day” in Persian, coincides with the spring equinox, which falls on March 21 every year.

This year, the occasion also marked the turn of the century according to the Persian calendar.

Many Iranians often mark the holiday by making new resolutions, visiting family and going on vacation.

This year, however, COVID-19 pandemic curbs dampened the traditional spirit associated with the annual celebrations amid a spike in new cases in several cities.

“For people in Iran, Nowruz is the one festival that everyone looks forward to, an occasion when people switch off from everything to celebrate life, love, friendships,” Mahdi Mohammadi, historian and cultural expert, told Anadolu Agency.

Mohammadi hastened to add, however, that the virus has “changed the way” people celebrate Nowruz. This is the second Iranian New Year amid the pandemic.

According to tradition, a Haft (Seven) Seen table is decorated in every Iranian home with seven items, starting with the letter S. These items are Sabzeh (fresh greens), Samanu (wheat paste), Senjad (jujube), Seeb (apple), Seer (garlic), Sirkeh (vinegar) and Somaq (sumac).

People also launch firecrackers, go on family outings and take a lengthy break from work.

Last night, Azadi Tower and Milad Tower, the two iconic landmarks in the Iranian capital, were lit up with glittering lights to mark the occasion.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani sent a congratulatory messages to his counterparts in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on the occasion, his office announced.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in his Nowruz address called on the government to increase production and eliminate restrictions in the way of production.

He designated the new Iranian calendar year of 1400 as the year of “Production: Support and the Elimination of Obstacles.”

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity in February 2010.

Nowruz is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in his message expressed hope that the new year would end violence, as well as “killings, threats, domineering policies and oppression.”

US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley also took to Twitter to extend Nowruz greetings.

“May this year lead Iran & the United States on a path to constructive engagement based on mutual interest, and may we strengthen the ties between the American and Iranian people,” he said.

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