Ritual of Peace and Friendship as the Intercultural Heritage in Norouz Region

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As an ancient and long-rooted tradition, the Norouz ritual not only constitutes the natural rebirth and order as a part of the psychological-mythic needs of human beings for many centuries, but has also laid a powerful base for peace and friendship between nations and ethnic groups that participate in this ritual. It is indeed possible to move from the key features of the ritual to the social characteristics, as it acts as the context for peace and friendship on two levels; first between humans and nature, and second among humans. The second level embraces two layers of coexistence of ethnic groups and nations within or beyond political borders. The above mentioned points continue the Norouz from the outset of the Iranian life, which made social solidarity and mental integrities among them that could spill over generations and would be diffused among other nations as well. Norouz has not been confined by national borders as the vanguard of peace and friendship. In fact, Norouz is a shared heritage between countries in which this ancient ritual has been held. When this ritual was registered by UNESCO, as part of its Convention on Intangible Culture (ratified in 2003) in 2016, twelve countries were documented as celebrating Norouz. Now, this ritual should be known as a notable example of intercultural heritage that integrates people from different national and ethnic backgrounds, such as Iranian, Afghan, Tajik, Turkish, etc. This article tries to open a new field of discussion into the conceptualization of cultural infrastructure and the foundations of peace. This article presents a discursive history of studies on Norouz, and then discusses two key concepts embedded in the ritual of Norouz including peace and friendship. With this goal in mind, narratives and rituals of Norouz will be discussed. This article applies several theoretical frameworks: Victor W. Turner’s theories about the presence of two key symbols in ritual construction, including dominant and instrumental symbols; theories of the anthropology of food with a focus on the role of food in the reinforcement of social ties and solidarity; and lastly, theories of cultural and regional-environmental diversity. Finally, this article sets forth the concept of intercultural heritage as an achievement and suggestion for UNESCO, and how it can help to increase the closeness between countries in this region.