I gave myself an absence mark from the blog last week, the last week of the Iranian year 1391 which ended on Wednesday 20 March at 14:31:47 hrs Iranian time at the precise moment when the sun’s movement marks the beginning of spring. As always, I had left all the cleaning and tidying up for the last minute (in the hope that someone else would do it, which they did – eventually), so the last days of the year were a marathon of scrubbing, cleaning, washing, folding, ironing and a thousand other things that should have been done much earlier.
On the first day of the New Year (Noruz) festival younger people visit the elders of the family, starting from the parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts. It is customary for the elders to give children and newly married couples an eidi, a present of money in the form of newly minted banknotes that have been kept between the Quran pages. This need not be a large sum, its significance being the blessing bestowed by the old upon the young. […] For the next twelve days short visits are exchanged among family and friends, the idea being that relatives should see each other at least once a year, if everyday life doesn’t let this happen more often. The younger visit the older people first, and towards the end of the twelve days, the older people reciprocate those visits.
During the Noruz visits, apart from the staples of tea and fruit, other compulsory items are on offer: several kinds of sweetmeats, sometimes homemade, nowadays mostly shop-bought, boiled sweets or chocolates, a mixture of seeds and nuts containing pistachios, almonds, dried chickpeas, pumpkin and watermelon seeds and other nuts. All these, and sometimes more, will be pressed upon you during a Noruz visit, so you will need a lot of stamina (to keep refusing) or a strong stomach; or both.
(the second and third paragraphs extracted and adapted from my Among the Iranians: A Guide to Iran’s Culture and Customs, Intercultural Press, Boston, Mass. 2010)