Iranian Calendars
Three calendars are in common use in Iran: the Persian solar calendar is the one in official and everyday use; the Muslim lunar calendar is used for Islamic religious matters; and the Western (Gregorian) calendar is used in dealing with foreigners and in some history books. Newspapers carry all three dates. When entering Iran the stamp in your passport will be in Farsi and refer to the Persian calendar. Be sure to confirm the Western date so you don’t overstay your visa; check www.payvand.com/calendar.

Persian Calendar
The modern Persian solar calendar, a direct descendant of the ancient Zoroastrian calendar, is calculated from the first day of spring in the year of the Hejira, the flight of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in AD 622. It has 365 days (366 every leap year), with its New Year (No Ruz) falling on 21 March according to the Western calendar. The names of the Persian months are as follows:

Season Persian Month Approximate Equivalent Season Persian Month Approximate Equivalent
Spring Farvardin 21 Mar-20 Apr Autumn Mehr 23 Sep-22 Oct
Ordibehesht 21 Apr-21 May Aban 23 Oct-21 Nov
Khordad 22 May-21 Jun Azar 22 Nov-21 Dec
Summer Tir 22 Jun-22 Jul Winter Dey 22 Dec-20 Jan
Mordad 23 Jul-22 Aug Bahman 21 Jan-19 Feb
Shahrivar 23 Aug-22 Sep Esfand 20 Feb-20 Mar

Muslim Calendar
The Muslim calendar starts from the month before the Hejira and is based on the lunar year of 354 or 355 days, so it is out of step with the Persian solar calendar by some 40 years.

Zoroastrian Calendar
The Zoroastrian calendar works to a solar year of 12 months of 30 days each, with five additional days. The week has no place in this system, and each of the 30 days of the month is named after and presided over by its own angel or archangel. The 1st, 8th, 15th and 23rd of each month are holy days. As in the Persian calendar, the Zoroastrian year begins in March at the vernal equinox and except for Andarmaz, which replaces Esfand, the months are the same.

Muslim Calendar
The Muslim calendar starts from the month before the Hejira and is based on the lunar year of 354 or 355 days, so it is out of step with the Persian solar calendar by some 40 years.

Zoroastrian Calendar
The Zoroastrian calendar works to a solar year of 12 months of 30 days each, with five additional days. The week has no place in this system, and each of the 30 days of the month is named after and presided over by its own angel or archangel. The 1st, 8th, 15th and 23rd of each month are holy days. As in the Persian calendar, the Zoroastrian year begins in March at the vernal equinox and except approximate Dates for Ramazan.

  • 6 May to 4 June 2019
  • 24 April to 23 May 2020
  • 13 April to 12 May 2021

Religious Holidays
Religious holidays follow the Muslim lunar calendar, which means the corresponding dates in the Western calendar move forward by 10 or 11 days every year.

Tasua (9 Moharram, 19 September 2018)

Ashura (10 Moharram, 20 September 2018) The anniversary of the martyrdom of Hossein, the third Shiite imam, in battle at Karbala in October AD 680. This is celebrated with religious theatre and sombre parades.

Arbaeen (20 Safar, 10 November 2018) The 40th day after Ashura.

Martyrdom of the Prophet Mohammed (28 Safar, 19 November 2018)

Martyrdom of Imam Reza (30 Safar, 9 November 2018)

Birth of the Prophet Mohammed (17 Rabi’-ol-Avval, 20 November 2018)

Martyrdom of Fatima (3 Jamadi-l-Okhra, 19 February 2018) Fatima was the daughter of Prophet Mohammed.

Birth of Imam Ali (13 Rajab, 30 March 2018)

Ascension of Holy Prophet (27 Rajab, 13 April 2018) Maabath.

Birthday of Imam Mahdi (15 Shaban, 1 May 2018)

Martyrdom of Imam Ali (21 Ramazan, 5 June 2018)

Eid al-Fitr (1 Shavval, 15 June 2018) The Festival of the Breaking of the Fast that marks the end of Ramazan. After sunset on the last day of Ramazan large meals are consumed across the country.

Martyrdom of Imam Jafar Sadegh (25 Shavval, 9 July 2018)

Eid-e Ghorban (10 Zu-l-Hejjeh, 22 August 2018) Marks the day when Abraham offered to sacrifice his son. Expect to see plenty of sheep being butchered.

Qadir-e Khom (Eid-al-Ghadir; 18 Zu-l-Hejjeh, 30 August 2018) The day Prophet Mohammed appointed Imam Ali as his successor while returning to Mecca.

Ramazan (Ramadan)
During the month known in Iran as Ramazan, Muslims are expected to perform a dawn-to-dusk fast that includes abstaining from all drinks (including water) and from smoking. This is seen less as an unpleasant ordeal than a chance to perform a ritual cleansing of body and mind. Some people, especially in cities, don’t fully observe the fast, but most do for at least part of the month. Some Muslims are exempted from the fast (eg pregnant and menstruating women, travellers, the elderly and the sick), as are non-Muslims, but they mustn’t eat or drink in front of others who are fasting.

Ramazan can be a trying period, particularly if it falls in summer when the days are that much longer and the heat and hunger tend to shorten tempers. Businesses and shops keep odd hours. However, public transport continues to function and travellers are exempt from the fast so you don’t need to worry about finding food on flights, trains or bus trips, and many hotels keep their restaurants open. Other restaurants either close altogether or open only after dark. Many shops selling food remain open throughout Ramazan, so you can buy food to eat in your room.

Although you shouldn’t have many problems in larger cities, in rural areas finding any food might be difficult during daylight hours.

Secular Holidays
Secular holidays follow the Persian solar calendar, and usually fall on the same day each year according to the Western calendar.

Magnificent Victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran (11 February, 22 Bahman) The anniversary of Khomeini’s coming to power in 1979.

Oil Nationalisation Day (20 March, 29 Esfand) Commemorates the 1951 nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

Nowruz (21–24 March, 1–4 Farvardin) Iranian New Year.

Islamic Republic Day (1 April, 12 Farvardin) The anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.

Sizdah be Dar (2 April, 13 Farvardin) ‘Nature Day’ is the 13th day of the Iranian New Year, when Iranians traditionally leave their houses for the day.

Heart-Rending Departure of the Great Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran (4 June, 14 Khordad) Commemorates the death of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. About 500,000 Iranians flock to Tehran, Qom (where he trained and lived) and the village of Khomein (where he was born).

Anniversary of the Arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini (5 June, 15 Khordad) In 1963 Khomeini was arrested after urging Muslims of the world to rise up against the superpowers.

Nowruz
Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is a huge family celebration on a par with Christmas in the West. From a practical point of view, Iran virtually shuts down between 21 March (the beginning of new year) and Sizdah be Dar (2 April). Finding hotel accommodation (especially midrange and top end) is very tough from about 17 March until 2 April and all forms of long-distance public transport are heavily booked, though savaris run more frequently making some shorter trips relatively easy. Government offices and most businesses, including many restaurants, close from 21 to 25 March inclusive, and many stay shut the full two weeks. It’s not impossible to travel during No Ruz, but think twice before heading to popular tourist destinations such as Esfahan, Mashhad, Yazd, Shiraz and anywhere on the Persian Gulf or Caspian coasts. Mountain areas such as rural Kordistan and primarily business cities such as Tehran and Kermanshah remain relatively uncrowded. On the positive side, museums and tourist sites stay open longer hours while some normally closed attractions will open.