In Iran, the idea of “spring cleaning” isn’t just a seasonal excuse to gut your closet; it’s the basis of a national holiday dating back millennia. Every year, millions celebrate Persian New Year, or Nowruz (prounced “no-rooz”). In Iran, the new year begins with the advent of spring, and most everyone in the country — not to mention the millions of Iranians and non-Iranians who celebrate the holiday elsewhere around the world — observe it by doing a deep clean of their homes, celebrating a season of new life, and wishing for good luck in the year ahead. You might have heard about Nowruz peripherally. The United Nations formally recognized it as an international holiday in 2010; President Obama extended Nowruz greetings to observers every year of his administration since 2009 (although they often doubled as statements on the relationship between the United States and Iran). Then-first lady Michelle Obama even held a Persian New Year celebration at the White House in 2015, complete with the Obama family’s own haft-seen (more on what a haft-seen is later). If you didn’t grow up celebrating Nowruz like I did, though, the concept might be confusing — actually, it was even a little confusing for me, since my childhood memories of Persian New Year mostly concerned salivating over the delicious rice dish my mother would make in its honor. But once I started to learn more about what Nowruz means outside of food — which, to be fair, is an important part of most holidays on this planet — I realized how fascinating its layered traditions really are.