With the arrival of the Spring Equinox, March 20th is a very special and harmonious day that calls for plenty of celebration. Not only is it the Day of Nowruz, an ancient Persian holiday which marks the New Year and 1st day of Spring, but it is the second time that the United Nations is celebrating the International Day of Happiness, which falls on March 20th every year. In 2010, the U.N. General Assembly established March 21st as the International Day of Nowruz. Celebrations start at the exact moment of the spring equinox which falls on or around March 21st every year.
Nowruz, or "New Day", celebrates the rejuvenation of life and nature marked by the beginning of Spring. By establishing this day as an officially recognized U.N. holiday, the global community is encouraged to reaffirm their commitment to life in harmony with nature and awareness of the inseparable link between constructive labor and natural cycles of renewal. In addition, the International Day of Happiness was established in 2012 for the global community to reaffirm their commitment to the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal, evident through new economic policies.
The history of Nowruz spans thousands of years, and across many present-day countries that were once part of the Greater Persia area (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and more). In 2009 UNESCO officially added Nowruz to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today, this tradition has expanded across the globe, and in 2009 Canada even added Nowruz to their official calendar. President Obama also sends his greetings to Iranians celebrating Nowruz every year.
The preparations for Nowruz begin weeks in advance with spring cleaning. A special table traditionally called "Haft Seen" table, or "Seven S" table, is decorated with hyacinth and tulip flowers. Symbols of rebirth, beauty, health, medicine, patience, love, the sunrise and affluence are displayed. Candles, a book of poetry, coins, dried fruits and nuts, colorful eggs, a mirror and a bowl of water with fish also adorn the table. Celebrations last 12 days and the 13th day is spent outside in an effort to deter any possible bad luck. Most of the time the 13th day falls on April Fool's Day. In this day and age of technology, it is important that we encourage our future generations to celebrate being in harmony with nature.
I am honored to hear that former Ambassador of Iraq to the U.N., Dr. T Hamid al-Bayati, who worked hard to create the resolution establishing the International Day of Happiness, and who traditionally celebrates Nowruz, is launching the International Happiness Initiative (IHI). IHI promotes the celebration of the International Day of Happiness worldwide.
Awareness of the International Day of Happiness is spreading day by day, and the U.N. has been preparing for it in many ways. Music artist, Pharrell, with his song "Happy," has partnered with the U.N. Foundation to promote this day among his millions of fans around the world. The U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI) has three events going on throughout March 20th, titled "Happiness Happening, Impacting Communities Globally," "Leveraging Media and Technology to Measure Happiness and Well-Being," and "Social Entrepreneurs: Sharing Happiness Initiatives for the Post-2015 Agenda." The Peace Bell is also being rung at the exact moment of the spring equinox, 12:57 P.M. EST, in celebration of both the International Day of Happiness and Nowruz. This ceremony will be webcast live at the U.N. Every year as part of my multicultural summer youth program, I bring my students to acknowledge and celebrate their diversity under the Peace Bell.
The World Health Organization has predicted that within the next 10 years, depression will be the leading global disease. I am worried about our future generation of isolated youth. With the rise of cyber bullying, truancy, sleeplessness, and loneliness through too much use of technology and social media, many youth are at risk. Promoting individual happiness and raising awareness on the significance of a new economic paradigm which strives towards happiness is so important among the youth. Pharrell is stimulating this conversation with his song, "Happy." It also gives me great pleasure to know that a U.N. DPI Youth Representative, Katrina Martinez, has been working hard with Ambassador al-Bayati in creating the International Happiness Initiative. As the current Social Chair of the Youth Reps, she has helped facilitate multiple platforms for Youth Reps around the world to get engaged with the work of the U.N., and is now engaging young people in the importance of happiness as a human right.
After such a long, cold, and snowy winter in NY, hearing about all the events and initiatives surrounding the International Day of Happiness and International Day of Nowruz could not come at a better time. Let us start this Spring on a hopeful and happy note, spreading harmony with nature and happiness as a fundamental human right for all. I encourage everyone to take a moment to yourself and welcome happiness into your soul at the exact moment of equinox at 12:57 p.m. EST.