Sunday, March 17, 2013

Noruz 1392 - Happy New Year!

 !نوروز مبارک 

Happy New Year!  Even though American New Year is on January 1st, Persian New Year (Noruz) is on the vernal equinox, meaning around March 20-21st each year.  Yes, Persians are late for everything, even New Year's.  Just to confuse the calendars even more, Iran uses a different calendar and so the new year is actually 1392 (621 years before 2013!).

Noruz is an ancient Zoroastrian holiday still celebrated by millions of people today.  It falls on the first day of spring every year, but the holiday celebrations themselves last for 13 days (but for some reason, no one ever lets me take 13 days of school off - I call foul).  To start off, there is Chaharshanbe Souri, celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the old year (Tuesday Night folks, cuz Farsi is confusing).  People build fires and jump over them saying, "Sorkhi to az man o zardie man az to!" (Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly palor!).  It can get pretty epic.
The idea is that the fire will burn away (not literally, don't worry) all of the ills, sickness, and bad things from the past year so that you have a fresh new start for a positive new year.  It's pretty fun to just jump over fires but because I live in cities, I've only ever celebrated this part once with a real fire (other times by jumping over sparklers).
For the rest of Noruz, the 13 days are filled with family visiting each other and then on the actual day, you set up the Haft Sin (Seven S's, seven things that begin with س).

  1. Sabzeh - sprouts with a red ribbon tied around them.  On the 13th day (Sizdah Bedar), people go for a picnic and throw the sabzeh into moving water to carry good wishes for the new year.  Sometimes single women will tie the sprouts in knots hoping to get married during the year.
  2. Samanu - wheat or lentil dish
  3. Sib - apples, for good health
  4. Sonbol - hyacinth flower, for its fragrance
  5. Senjed - fruit from a lotus tree, symbolizes love
  6. Seer - garlic, symbolizes health
  7. Somagh (sumac) - the color of sunrise/sunset, symbolizes beauty
Other things on the table include a Qur'an, a book of poetry, gold coins (for wealth & prosperity), orange floating in a bowl of water (symbolizes the earth in the universe, the orange is supposed to spin in the water on the exact moment of the equinox), brightly colored eggs (fertility), bowl of milk (health), goldfish (life, fertility), rosewater (important in Persian culture), vinegar (serkeh, also a س), and candles (one for each child in the family, placed in front of a mirror to reflect the positive light back to the family).  Then, you read some Hafez and other poetry and eat some amazing food.  Older people have to give gifts to everyone younger than them, so if you're the youngest, you clean house.
Noruz is basically awesome.  This year, it is on March 20th, but due to scheduling, my family will celebrate later.  However, there are always the annual Persian Student Associations' Noruz culture shows to look forward to!  This year, the University of Michigan had another great culture show, called "Eshghe Bahar" (Love of Spring).  Lots of dancing, music, and some funny skits.  There were also guest performances - one dance by the Chinese Students Association that fused traditional and modern dancing as well as a performance by Ta'amullat Fi Buhayrit al Zaman, a dance group that performs folk dances from the Middle East.

UMich PSA also had stand up comedian Tehran Soparvaz (Tehran "So-Fly") perform.  He was hilarious and extremely engaging with the performers and audience throughout the show, even after his routine.  They have had other Persian stand-up comedians perform at shows before, but this was the best.  I didn't get video from the show, but there are a few videos out there with some of his older stand-up routines.

(start at 4:06 for Tehran Soparvaz)

There was also a performance by an Iranian grad student on traditional Persian musical instruments (the stringed instrument is the kamancheh, and the kid is playing the tombak and the daf).  It was phenomenal.  Check out the whole performance below.

 !نوروزتان پیروز

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