Haft Seen denotes seven symbolic items beginning with the letter (S), displayed on a “board, flat surface or spread” called Sofra to greet the arrival of Vernal Equinox/Spring and the Ancient Iranian New Year.
The seen items are as follows: 1. sabza, fresh green germinated lentil or wheat sprouts and colored eggs 2. sepand (esfand), incense or seeds of wild rue (burned just after the turn of the equinox or new year); 3. sib, apples and/or naarenj sour oranges, 4. sekae, silver or gold coins; 5. sirr, garlic cloves 6. serkae, vinegar, or wine; and 7. a bowl of samanuu (a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat, water and oil.)
Also holy book or sacred poetry, candles, mirror, hyacinth and sweets nuts are part of the Nauvrooz table.
Among the Zoroastrians Nauvrooz is greeted by: colored eggs and fresh green germinated lentil or wheat sprouts, incense/sepand or seeds of wild rue, few branches from a blossoming fruit tree, flowers especially hyacinth for spring, seasonal fruits (apples, sour oranges and quinces,) lórk or seven nuts all mixed with raisins and dried fruits, a bowl of rain or spring water containing an evergreen, pomegranate leaf or sour orange blossoms, mirror, rose water, candles, wine, book of sacred poetry.
Also, whole milk, honey, coins, sugar cones covered in golden green wrappings, hearty bread, fresh herbs and cheese are displayed in addition to samanuu, a sweet paste made entirely from germinated wheat, water and oil.
We know that the Ancient Iranians greeted Nauvrooz with colored eggs, fresh green germinated sprouts from seven kinds of seeds, fragrant herbs, seven branches from blossoming fruit trees, seasonal flowers/hyacinth, wine and a loaf of hearty bread made from seven kinds of grain.
Despite the name, the MODERN haft seen contains many elements that do not start with the letter S or seen. Furthermore, many items on the Haft seen board are identical to the Sofra for wedding ceremonies.
Some have speculated that the original items started with the letter sh or sheen citing as evidence a RECENT poem which asserts that “under the Kayanids the Ancient Iranians used to place on the Nauvrooz table šahd o šir o šarāb o šikkar-e nāb; šamʿ o šamšād o šāya”. That is a purely fabricated explanation ignoring borrowed Arabic names for some items starting with the letter sh.
The other view is that the term haft seen is a corruption of haft sini (seven metal trays) or even haft chini ‘seven china porcelains. This view is also unsubstantiated and offers no historical precedence whatsoever.
However, if one considers the Nauvrooz table as the reflections of the beliefs of the Ancient Iranians and of their beliefs especially with regard to the Ameshá or Amertá Speñtás (Auspicious Immortals; the wisest, brightest and fairest of all beings) it makes perfect sense.
The Seven Speñtás are the “Bright, Auspicious Immortals, the brilliant thoughts of Ahúrá Ma(n)zdá, aspects of his creativity/mind. Seven is also the symbol of delighted discovery and eternal progress in the Zoroastrian lore.
We read in the Avesta, Vispered 8.1 concerning the Speñtás; “the Bright, Auspicious Immortals” that they are 50, 100, 1000, 10,000 and beyond counting/calculation.
In Zoroastrian lore and tradition the time of vernal equinox is sacred spring time, the time when holy spirits return to earth. Bonfires are lit to welcome the Speñtás, the holy spirits and all that is auspicious with illumination, much joy and bursting life energy.
10 days prior to vernal equinox, is a period of reflection and pondering known as pätat, houses are thoroughly cleaned, lights and bonfires are lit, hearts are cleansed, and a symbolic banquet offering is made to the Seven Bright, Auspicious Speñtás.
The spirit behind the Nauvrooz celebration and banquet is very ancient and meaningful. It is undeniably connected to and inspired by the poetic gathas of the prophet Zarathushtra, a celebration of sacred spring, renewal of the universe and the auspicious spirit of brilliance, regeneration, and eternal progress both in man and the universe.