By Eli Meixler
Updated: March 21, 2018 8:29 AM ET

March 21 marks the first day of Spring, but for millions of people around the world it’s also the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year or Persian New Year. On Nowruz 2018, Google celebrates this holiday of rebirth and renewal with a special Google Doodle.

A Haft-Sin table furnished with the traditional seven symbolic items, each beginning with the Persian letter S (Sin), Tehran, Iran, 21st March 2002. Haft-Sin is a tradition associated with Iranian new year (Nowruz) celebrations. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Kaveh Kazemi—Getty Images

When is Nowruz?

Nowruz, which means “new day” in Persian, has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years, and traditionally begins the very moment that the sun crosses the equator on the vernal equinox, according to Google. The holiday has roots in the ancient Zoroastrian religion and marks the first day of the official Iranian calendar.

Candles in front of a mirror during a Nowruz (Iranian new year) ceremony at the Rostam Bagh Zoroastrian fire temple in Tehran, Iran, circa 1995. (Photo by Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
Kaveh Kazemi—Getty Images

What countries celebrate Nowruz?

Nowruz is celebrated across the Middle East, Central Asia, the Caucasus and beyond. Countries celebrating Nowruz include Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Albania.

TEHRAN, IRAN - MARCH 18: An Iranian girl buys bean sprouts on the occasion of Norooz, the Iranian new year, in Tehran 18 March 2000. Iranians germinate seeds as a symbol of renewal during Norooz, which coincides with the first day of spring 20 March. On the thirteenth and final day of the new year celebration, the sprouts are thrown into the water, in keeping with Iranian custom. (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)
BEHROUZ MEHRI—AFP/Getty Images

How is Nowruz observed?

Nowruz ushers in a celebratory period of two weeks, in which families clean their homes, visit relatives, and share festive meals and gifts.

Nowruz is also observed with cultural events and ceremonies, including street performances of music, poetry and dance. Families enjoy traditional foods, such as reshteh polow, a dish of toasted rice and noodles with lamb, dates and raisins.

The holiday is also frequently marked with sports competitions including wrestling and horse racing in Uzbekistan, and Kokboru (also a horse-mounted sport) in Kyrgyzstan. In Iran, families traditionally lay out a “haft-seen,” or a selection of seven symbolic items each beginning with the letter “s,” including fried fruit, sprouts or grasses, and spices, according to Vox.

Nowruz was recognized by the U.N. in 2009 as a tradition of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which “promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighborliness,” according to the U.N.

Happy Nowruz to all! Here are some Nowruz wishes from familiar faces:

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