As the Winter surrenders to Spring's fresh green shoots of new life, this period is among the happiest of times not only for Iranians, but also for people throughout the entire Middle East, reaching from the Balkans to Northwestern China, Lebanon to Central Asia. While 21 March is recognized everywhere as the first day of Spring, for many all over the world it is also the first day of the New Year, known as Norooz.

While the Norooz tradition is rooted in the Iranian psyche for untold ages and is associated with the Zoroastrian religion, today it is a cherished holiday for people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds who are united through Iranian traditions. With its universal appeal, and also since both occasions are also the most important times for family gatherings, Norooz is similar to our Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Jewish, Zoroastrian, Armenian and Turkish Iranians, Kurds, Afghanis and Central Asians celebrate the Norooz holiday with the same enthusiasm and sense of belonging.

While there are many rituals and celebrations associated with Norooz, the most integral part of every household during the two-week celebration is the Haftseen table. 'Haft' means 'seven' and 'seen' is a name for the 's' sound in Persian language. The Haftseen table displays seven symbols whose names begin with the 's' sound, and which are believed to usher in prosperity and good luck for the coming year. Three of these symbols represent the earthly world, three for the conceptual world, and one forges the connection between both worlds.

Symbols for the material world are grass, egg, and stone (or a coin); for the heavenly world, candle, mirror, and fish in water. Although contemporary Haftseen tables substitute vinegar, the original symbol for unity between both worlds is wine. Prevalent in classical Persian poetry, the metaphor of wine has several meanings, including actual wine, spiritual understanding, and Love, whether it be human or Divine.

The chance for renewal that comes with Spring and the turning of the earth is an opportunity to balance our relationship with both the material world and the world of the spirit. We at the human level can steady our feet on the ground (stone) while reaching the energy of light (candle), through being fully present in the moment and drinking deeply of the Wine of Understanding.