What is Nowruz and why is it today’s Google Doodle?

Watch: Nowruz celebrations in Azerbaijan

Look at Tuesday’s Google Doodle and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just a pretty little floral display but, actually, there’s a little more to it than that.

Go to the search engine’s homepage and you’ll see the six letters of its name overlaid with tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, and bee orchids – classic springtime flowers.

And indeed, the Doodle is an ode to Spring or, more specifically to Nowruz.

Nowruz is an ancient holiday that marks the start of the new season and is celebrated by more than 300 million people around the world every year.

It is most notably feted across the Middle East, the South Caucasus and the Black Sea Basin, as well as Northern, Western, Central, and South Asia, on 21 March.

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“In many cultures, Nowruz also marks the beginning of a new year — a time to reflect on the past, set intentions for the future, and strengthen relationships with loved ones,” as Google notes in its blurb to the dedicated Doodle.

“Some common traditions include: Decorating eggs to honor new life, tidying up your home to prepare for a fresh start, and feasting on spring vegetables and herbs.”

The iconic logo is adorned with springtime flowers in the 21 March Google DoodleGoogle

Given its importance to millions of people, the United Nations (UN) recognises it as an international holiday and, in 2009, formally named it as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition.

The UN states on its website that Nowruz “promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.”

It adds: “Nowruz plays a significant role in strengthening the ties among peoples based on mutual respect and the ideals of peace and good neighbourliness.”

Meanwhile, UNESCO states on its site that there is much feasting and exchanging of gifts on the day of Nowruz and a “wide range of cultural performances and traditions also take place”.

“Children are often given small toys, and traditionally play with colourfully painted eggs. Families and within communities share a symbolic meal, often consisting of cooked rice and vegetables combined with many local ingredients,” it adds.

A traditional Nowruz table, featuring flowers, colourful eggs and sweetsiStock

It goes on: “One widespread tradition is the preparation of a Nowruz table, on which a number of symbolic objects are placed. While these tables differ slightly from region to region, the most common features are: water, candles, dishes of green sprouts (or Sabzeh).

“These objects symbolise purity, brightness, abundance, happiness and fertility for the new year.”

All that remains is to wish everyone a happy, peaceful (and sunny?) Nowruz!

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