The group meets at the home of an Iranian family, who are part of our church, and this week, instead of our usual study, we celebrated together the Iranian New Year (Nowruz).
Part of this celebration is to look at the Haft Sin table, a place where seven items that begin with the letter S (Sin in Farsi) and have symbolic meaning are placed.
Here is their Haft Sin table:
On this table you can see several items, each with a symbolic meaning. For the Christian couple these are used prayerfully at the start of the year to ask God's blessing in key areas.
The traditional Haft Sīn items are:
- sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
- samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
- senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
- sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
- sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
- somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
- serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience
Alongside these items (all here except the sabzeh and the samanu) are candles with a prayer for enlightenment, eggs (much the same symbolism as an Easter egg), a goldfish (which is released into freedom at the end of the 13 days of festivities), and a Bible.
National poets are read, especially the Divan of Hafez and Rumi. Rumi and Hafez are famous poets, I'm a little embarrassed to write that this was the first time I'd read them.
It was a lovely relaxed couple of hours, with us learning more in one evening about Iranian culture than we had done in the ten weeks of class preceding it. What spoke to me most was the idea of placing our prayers in a prominent place, these symbols of things to be prayed for, a constant physical reminder during that new year period. So much more interactive (and tasty) than a list on a piece of paper - so much more present the hopes and dreams for the year ahead. I think this December/January we as a church might be exploring this a way of praying into the New Year.