Iran

If nothing else, Iran's militant Islamic revolution has come to terms with Now Ruz, the Persian new year whose origin predates Islam and is thought to go back to fire-worshiping Zoroastrians who once rules this land.

In the first flush of revolutionary zeal last year, there was some serious consideration given to banning Now Ruz as a non- or even anti-Islamic holiday, but even the stern Moslem clerics decided to go that far.

Indeed, it was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself who appeared on television at exactly 2:48 p.m. Thursday afternoon to wish the nation well at the exact moment of the spring equinox.

Now Ruz is one of the rare, genuinely enjoyable Iranian holidays: many of the others are the anniversaries of the many martyrs of the Shiite sect of Islam, which is Iran's state religion.

Alone among Moslem nations to adopt an unchanging calendar with its phases fixed by the moon, Iran has borrowed from the Far Eastern tradition of naming each year after a different animal. Today marks the end of the Year of the Sheep and the beginning ofthe Year of the Monkey.

Despite shortages of various consumergoods, the government made sure that oranges, apples and other traditional Now Ruz delicacies were in ample supply.

However, the festive tradition of eating fish on Now Ruz could not be honored in many homes. Uncontrolled fishing in the Caspian Sea has left the caviar-bearing sturgeon and many other species in very short supply.

Now Ruz is a day for presents, especially giving new clothes for children. Younger members of families pay visis to their elders and everyone patches up quarrels and forgets differences of the past year. Kissing and congratulations are the order of the daywhen the exact hour has struck.

STILL, THE REVOLUTION has marked this ancient holiday, which dates back to the Zoroastrians, who now are a tiny community of no more than 300,000 in Iran.

Before the revolution, Now Ruz holidays lasted for two solid weeks with many Iranians tacking a third one onto the celebration.

This year, the revolutionary authorities have announced that the holiday will last only five days. But judging from the difficulty in reserving airline seats for overseas destinations, many better heeled Iranians have decided to honor the old way anyhow.

Spared newspapers for a week, Iranians also indulge in another Now Ruz tradition -- the decorating of eggs, much as Westerners do on Easter.

SOME IRANIANS wanted to ban music, dancing and the street entertainers known as Haji Firuz, who took to the streets in recent days made up in black face paint and thearical beardsto welcome the approaching holiday and panhandle a bit.

Some Tehran residents complained that the Haji Firuz no longer knew the traditional poetry and songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. But at least the tradition of jumping through a bonfire on the Tuesday before Now Ruz was honored with the words, "I leave you my pallor and I take your redness' -- a way of saying that bleak winter is over and spring is here.

Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who usually talks to reporters about weightier matters, came to the spirited defense of the Haji Firuz and some pop singers whose Western ways were suspect enough to require their presence before a revolutionary prosecutor at Evin Prison recently.

"Is it not a pity that some even follow the Haji Firuz in the name of preventing debauchery? Have the 3 million drug addicts been treated?" Ghotbzadeh asked."Have all the drug and cigarette smokers been caught? Has security been established? And have we nothing left to do that we now bother the Haji Firuz. . .?"

HOWEVER VIGILANT Khomeini's followers are in matters of public morals, they have done nothing about the expanding trade in kitsch objects bearing the revolutionary leader's likeness.

First there were portraits and photographs, large and small, in black-and-white and in color. Then came key chains with his likeness. Some smart Swiss watchmaker brought out a special model for Iran with a face that lights up with Khomeini's features and a red splotch for the second hand, apparently signifying the blood of martyrs who died to bring down the shah.

Then there was a three-dimensional color transparency, showing Khomeini on his knees praying in Neauphle-le-Chateau, the suburban town outside Paris where he stayed for four months before returning in triumph to Iran in February 1979 after 14 years of exile.

The latest objects are light bulbs with a tinfoil likeness of the ayatollah attached to the filament. When plugged in, the likeness turns bright red and pulsates.