What is Sepandarmazgan and why is it celebrated?

Sepandarmazgan, also known as Espandegan or Esfandegan, is the ancient Iranian day of women celebrated by Persians since the time of Achaemenid’s dynasty, the first empire to ever rule over the so-called land of Persia. Know more about Sepandarmazgan and the ancient land of Persia and maybe you’ll find it hard not to visit Persia.

Of course, women have been celebrated often in different cultures and in numerous ways throughout the history of humankind, but they were especially appreciated and regarded highly among the ancient Persians and generally were encouraged to take on more prominent roles compared to the rest of societies at the time and this reverence is the reason Sepandarmazgan was originally created.  A good number of women in ancient Persia even served as commanders and generals and managed to leave a name behind in the rich history of their country, a great example being Pantea Arteshbod, a founder of the famous (or rather infamous, if you ask the Greeks!) Army of the Persian Immortals. So, taking all of that into consideration, a day devoted to appreciate women amongst Iranians leading to Sepandarmazgan should not come as a surprise.

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The holy day was named after Spandarmard, the deity who supposedly protected the Earth and women (who loved their husbands) in Zoroastrian beliefs. As Al-Biruni, the Persian scholar belonging to the 11th century CE, has mentioned in his testimony on Sepandarmazgan, each day of the year possessed a unique name in the ancient Persian calendar and whenever the month and the day shared the same name, a name-feast would be held and people would celebrate. It appears that Sepandarmazgan was the fifth day of the month ‘Spandarmard’ (now called Esfand) and was celebrated on that day with men crafting and bringing ‘liberal presents’ to women as a reminder of their love and appreciation for women.

The Sepandarmazgan event has Zoroastrian origins which is considered to be one of the oldest organized faiths in the world and the one formerly followed and favored by ancient people of Iran. Sepandarmazgan was named after a deity of the same belief and considered to be a holy tradition for the followers.

When is Sepandarmazgan celebrated?

Sepandarmazgan was initially celebrated on the fifth day of the month Spandarmard, as already explained, which would be an equivalent of March 26th on the Georgian calendar. However, as a result of later changes in the Persian calendar, the date has also faced some changes. The old Persian calendar used at the time of Achaemind era was set with each of the twelve months being thirty days long whereas the solar Hejri calendar currently being used in Iran contains a few more days and is consistent of 365 days per year, except for the usual leap years. Some would argue that Sepandarmazgan should be celebrated on the date previously stated and decline the changes caused by the newer Persian calendar.

By applying the changes, Sepandarmazgan was set to be celebrated by Iranians on the new fifth of Esfand, which would be 24th of February. There had been a few endeavors to revive the tradition of Sepandarmazgan in modern Iran during the Pahlavi era back in 1925.

Is Sepandarmazgan still celebrated in modern Iran?

Although the name ‘Sepandarmazgan’ is familiar and mostly recognized by the majority of Iranians, unfortunately, only a small number of them still practice the tradition and celebrate their love among themselves on fifth of Esfand. We can say that the bitter truth is, Sepandarmazgan is not widely celebrated in the modern Iran and the tradition has been fading throughout the centuries. Many youngsters nowadays prefer to celebrate the 14th of February, the Valentine’s Day, instead of Sepandarmazgan which is internationally celebrated as the day of love for lovers who look for excuses to deepen their bonds and spend more romantic time together. As the Valentine’s Day pulls closer, all kinds of red embellishments, gift boxes, chocolates and teddy bears start appearing in every shop in Iran.

With the fading of Sepandarmazgan, this has been a change occurring only in the past few years and is still considered to be a somewhat new and foreign concept to a lot of Iranians, especially the older generations who have a harder time to adapt.

Women’s and Mother’s Day in Modern-day Iran:

In the modern Iran, as a way to fill out the empty space created by the disappearance of Sepandarmazgan, women’s and Mother’s Day is celebrated on 20th of the Islamic month of Jamaadi-o-saani on the lunar calendar which is the birthday of Fatemeh Zahra, daughter of prophet Muhammad. People celebrate it by handing out gifts and flowers to the important women of their lives, mostly their mothers and their wives which is very similar to what happened during Sepandarmazgan.

It is worth mentioning that the lunar calendar is mostly used in Iran for religious celebrations and events and doesn’t serve any other purpose. The official calendar of Iran is currently the solar Hejri one, consisting of 12 months and 365 days and the day of Sepandarmazgan.

Symbols of Love in old Persian poems and among Iranian people:

Although Sepandarmazgan might no longer be celebrated with passion as it used to be the costume in the past, there are many poems and love stories left that are extremely popular among Iranians and are easily found in every single Iranian household. Stories like Leily and Majnoon, Shirin and Farhad, Khosrow and Shirin, depicting young lovers with almost always tragic destinies, are well-known by the people of Iran, young and old, and of any background or level of literacy.

These poems and their extreme popularity are proofs that with the fading of Sepandarmazgan, celebration of love didn’t stop in Iran and even after Sepandarmazgan, love is considered something worthy of celebration among the many different Iranian ethnic groups which don’t celebrate Sepandarmazgan anymore.

Persian love poems and poets from centuries ago focus on the topic of love and stories of lovers in most cases and are favored and highly appreciated by people of Iran who consider love poems an inseparable part of the Iranian culture and the Iranian identity just as much as Sepandarmazgan used to be in the past. Who knows, maybe you’ll find the beautiful depiction of love in Iranian literature and art as one of the many reasons to travel to Iran in the future, or maybe one of our Tailor-made tours, tailored to your own personal taste, would do the job.

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