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Iran marks new Persian century amid Covid-19 restrictions, economic crisis

By Marina Villén

Tehran, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- Iran brought in the New Year on Saturday but the coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis as a result of the United States sanctions and political uncertainty have cast a long shadow over celebrations to mark the start of the 15th century on the Persian calendar.

The traditional family visits, gift exchanges and spending on new clothes that normally mark Iran’s most important non-Islamic celebration have been kept, but with certain limitations imposed by the economic crisis and restrictions to avoid a fourth coronavirus wave.

Even though most Iranians are not flush with cash at the moment, the typical Iranian New Year (or “Nowruz”) decoration is omnipresent: the haft-sin, composed of seven elements that begin with the letter S in Persian, including apple, sprouts of cereals and legumes among others.

Rahim Rahmani, 56, a seller of apple and red fish, another staple of New Year decorations, admits to Efe that “people are not satisfied with the prices.”

“Sometimes we feel ashamed because the price of our products is high and we see that many families are forced to buy at the insistence of their children,” said Rahimi, who has been selling Nowruz at his Tehran store since his teenage years.

While apples and fish are essential elements that people can make an effort to buy, new clothes or traveling is a whole different story.

“It is very hard for people economically because, from the high class to the low class, everyone is under pressure and is forced to control their spending,” Maryam Daemi, a 42-year-old house wife tells Efe.

Despite the difficulties, Iranians “do not forget or lose their traditions” and want to “give themselves a consolation and celebrate this Nowruz in the best possible way”, Daemi says.

Beyond the economic crisis, the coronavirus has also had a major impact on the celebrations.

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