More than 300 million people will celebrate Nowruz (and you should, too)

People gather around a bonfire on March 12, 2019, as part of the Nowruz celebrations in Baku, Azerbaijan.

(CNN)For millions of people across the globe, Nowruz is no small celebration. Think Christmas, New Year's and Fourth of July combined -- and add to it fire festivities, delicious meats, rice and spices, family gatherings, street dances and loud banging on pots.

But it's much more than that, too. Nowruz "promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families," the United Nations says. It's a time of reconciliation and neighborliness, "contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities."
And we could all use some of that, no matter what it's called.

    What is it?

    Nowruz is the Persian New Year. But you don't have to be Persian to celebrate. Also known as Nauryz, Navruz or Nowrouz, it means "new day." The new year will ring in at around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday in Tehran (around 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday).
    It's no coincidence it falls on the first day of spring. The Iranian calendar is a solar calendar, meaning time is determined, through astronomical observations, by Earth's movement around the sun. So, the first day of the year always kicks off with the natural phenomenon of the vernal equinox.
    It's not a religious holiday but rather a universal celebration of new beginnings: wishing prosperity and welcoming the future while shedding away the past. That's why families use this time to deep clean their homes and closets and buy fresh clothing.
    It's a monthlong celebration, filled with parties, craft-making, street performances and public rituals.
    And yes, lots of food.

    Who celebrates it?

    March 21 was officially recognized in 2010 as International Nowruz Day by the United Nations at the request of countries including Afghanistan, Albania, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
    But it's reach is even wider. More than 300 million people worldwide celebrate Nowruz -- and have celebrated it for more than 3,000 years -- from the Balkans to the Black Sea Basin to Central Asia to the Middle East and elsewhere.
    Hundreds of US communities celebrate Nowruz, too.
    Los Angeles, home to one of the largest Persian populations outside Iran, prides itself on hosting the largest Nowruz festival in the country, with daylong festivities for visitors of any age. You can also find a Nowruz celebration in almost every state in the nation.

    How do you celebrate Nowruz?

    As with most holidays, Nowruz comes with its own set of traditions.
    They include the "Haft Sin" table, which includes seven symbolic items starting with the Farsi letter "S." They include wheat grass, herbs, dried food and vinegar, all representing various hopes for the new year, including health, wealth and prosperity. For example, "Sir," the word for garlic, represents protection from illness and evil, while vinegar, or "Serkeh," represents longevity and patience. The tables also include mirrors, candles, decorated eggs, water and various fruits.