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WINTER 2021 | 27 IRAN Nowruz, also known as Iranian new year, begins on the first day of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and is celebrated by more than 300 million people throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. While specific traditions vary from country to country, this centuries-old Persian festival is focused on practices that represent new beginnings. In addition to deep cleaning their homes and wearing new clothing, families set a table with seven symbolic items, whose names all start with the letter S—known as the haft-sin—such as seeb (apple), seer (garlic) and serekh (vinegar). Tabletops are also adorned with painted eggs, mirrors, coins and other decorative accents designed to bring fertility, beauty, prosperity and other positive outcomes. S p ain In lieu of a traditional champagne toast, Spaniards eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight to ensure good luck for the 12 months ahead. (Several other Latin countries later adopted this same ritual.) Legend has it the tradition started in the late 1800s as a way for wine growers in the Alicante region to use up their excess crop. ISRAEL The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, takes place during the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which is typically September or October. More subdued than other celebrations, it's a time of repentance and contemplation. One special ritual is the blowing of a shofar , a trumpet made from the horn of a ram. During Rosh Hashanah, it's tradition to eat round challah, a loaf of braided bread, and apples, which are believed to have healing properties. The fruit are served dipped in honey, which signifies hope for a sweet year ahead.

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