The New Year of the Shi’ites and Alevis commences at the Spring Equinox, and is celebrated as the Feast of Nevroz. For them there are two new years: one, reckoned in lunar months, is the first day of Muharram; the other is the Spring solstice of the solar year. The former is a sad day, the anniversary of genocide; the latter is a day of good omen, a joyful occasion. The Festival of Nevroz, the national festival of Iran, is called “Crimson Egg Day” and a number of beliefs and myths are associated with it: Ali’s birthday, the beginning of Spring, the grounding of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat after the Flood, God’s recognition of Mohammed as His prophet, Mohammed’s acceptance of Ali as candidate for His successor, and the destruction by Prophet Mohammed, like the Prophet Abraham before him in the Temple of Nemrut, of 360 idols in the ancient Temple of Mecca. March 21st, when day and night are of equal length, is anticipated as a joyful day, full of hope for the future, and being sad or mournful on this day is regarded as shameful and a sin. Houses are cleaned from top to bottom for Nevroz, when, it is believed, illness and evil will cease to exist, quarrels are reconciled, graves are visited, people leap over Nevroz bonfires making various wishes as they do so, and the Festival is celebrated with assemblies and special programmes. Nevroz is the Persian word for “new day” and it is celebrated as the Feast of Life among those Parsees who are adherents of the Zoroastrian religion.
A religious order known as Bektashism, taking its name from Hadji Bektash who lived in the 13th century is distinct from, but similar to Anatolian Alevism. Only a person born into an Alevi family may become an Alevi, but anyone who joins the order may become a Bektashi. There are more similarities than differences between the two orders. The saying, “The only difference lies in the practice not in the path”; is generally used when referring to Alevi-Bektashi culture, beliefs or traditions. Hadji Bektash is of great importance to Alevis and in their centres of assembly and worship his portrait is displayed with pride alongside that of Ali. Very few historical facts are known about his life, but he is thought to have been a Turkoman, born in Nishapur, Turkistan. Having qualified as a mystic, he later travelled to Anatolia. “You alone are responsible for your words, deeds and morals” is one of his precepts, and another is “Do as you would be done by”, literally translated as ‘Do not practice on another what would be hard for you to bear.” One of the cornerstones of the Alevi-Bektashi creed is the Spiritual Brotherhood which advocates mutual help, mutual support and fraternity. Ahi-ism, a branch of Alevi which applies to commercial and professional sectors, whose tradition carries certain of its qualities to the present day, joined Bektashism after the murder of Ahi Evren, and was united and totally absorbed by it. Today many members of Alevi-Bektashi order preserve some of the old folk-religious customs, such as placing lighted candles at the tomb of a saint, kissing the door frame on entering and avoiding treading on the doorstep of a holy building, requesting prayers to be said by distinguished healers, or writing a wish or request on a strip of cloth and tying it to a sacred tree or shrine. The belief that after his death Hadji Bektash turned into a falcon and flew away can be associated with Shamanistic roots.