Haft Sin (Haft Seen) is a traditional custom in the New Year holiday of Iranian known as Nowruz. It is a table setting with 7 different items which its essential items letters start with, however, some items in this table setting do not start with seen.
“Seen”( س in Persian) is the fifteenth letter of the Persian alphabet; meaning “The Seven Scenes” in Persian a “Haft Seen” is a symbolic spread.
In event of the Persian New Year, which starts mid-March, pretty much every Iranian family sets one up at home as do shopping malls, stores, and offices.
The spread typically features seven elements beginning with the letter “س” as well as other elements that do not necessarily begin with the same letter. Each element has a unique symbolic significance which we briefly explain below:
- Serkeh (Vinegar) symbolizes patience and immortality.
- Sumac is a symbol of love and compassion.
- Seeb (Apple) is said to represent health and fertility.
- Senjed (Silverberry) is seen as a simulator of love and affection.
- Sabzeh (Sprouts) symbolizes rebirth. The greens might have sprouted from wheat, lentils, barley, or mung beans (and more recently citrus seeds).
- Sir (Garlic) was traditionally thought to avert evil; given the pungent smell it diffuses, we couldn’t entirely reject that theory. It is a symbol of protection in the face of affliction.
- Samanu is a nutritious pudding that comes in only one color: brown. To make Samanu, wheat sprouts are transformed into a sweet and creamy delight. The seventh “Seen” represents affluence.
Side elements used to adorn the setting include mirrors, candles, colored eggs, hyacinths, coins, and clocks. But the most controversial members of the spread are gold-fish! There is vehement disagreement on whether or not gold-fish in a bowl belong on a “Haft Seen.” The most fervid opponents are environmentalists and animal rights activists. Though some have replaced goldfish with ceramic replicas over the past few years, many continue to buy the real deal every Nowruz.
Not all of the named elements are seen in every “Haft Seen.” People tend to make their pick based on personal taste, aesthetic preference, or availability. Given the many options available, there is more than one way to go about arranging a spread and the outcomes are widely diverse. Like all other things that change with time, the spreads have also taken many new and creative forms.