Nowruz is often called the Persian New Year and is closely associated with Iran. But Nowruz is marked across many different countries, including in Afghanistan and Central and Southern Asia, among Kurds across the Middle East, and even in parts of the Balkans and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar (more on that soon!).
Even though Nowruz has ancient roots, the holiday has changed significantly over the thousands of years that it has been celebrated. Different regions have preserved or developed different traditions, and new ones have been added to the old ones. The beautiful thing about Nowruz is that it has taken different shapes everywhere it has reached, but it always marks the original message of rebirth and renewal.
The spread of Nowruz can be traced back to three primary historical factors. Firstly, the ancient influence of Persian imperial culture across much of Central and Western Asia, where Persian and Turkic communities have celebrated it for many centuries.
Secondly, Nowruz is linked to the adoption of Persian culture and poetry by medieval Islamic empires, like the Ottomans and the Mughals, who spread the holiday to Turkey, the Balkans and South Asia. The Mughal court officially celebrated Nowruz in India, while the Bektashi Sufi order, which was influential in the Ottoman realm, spread the holiday into Southeastern Europe.