The Year 1396: The Persian New Year

The “Haft-Seen”


The Persian New Year is a time of joy and fresh beginnings. Contrary to the Western calendar, Iranians believe that the New Year starts with the coming of spring rather than the end of December. The New Year begins on the spring equinox which is around March 21st. Persians always celebrate events with style, but when it comes to the New Year they take celebrating to a new level. The process takes around two weeks in total with the start of “Chahar-shanbeh Soori”, loosely translated to “Wednesday Redness”, and the end of “Sizdah Bedar”.

There are certain rituals that take place during this time period that are quintessential to Iranian culture. Iranians strongly believe in cleanliness; hence the intense spring-cleaning that takes place. In addition to a clean home, Iranians must buy new clothes for the New Year. As a child, my sister and I would get beautiful, colorful dresses that symbolized a fresh start. My mother would make the traditional table called the “Haft Seen”, which translates to the “Seven S’s”. Each item on the table starts with an “S”: seeb (apple), seer (garlic), sekkeh (gold), etc. The table has items that represent different facets of spring or things that we would like to continue to have in the New Year. During the actual New Year, most families sit by this table and have a count down to the upcoming year. The New Year is a time when Iranians surround themselves with their family and friends. Elders are known to give money and gifts to children. All these traditions come together to form a joyous and rich celebration.

This year, my festivities have included attempting to raise goldfish, attending Iranian music concerts, and participating in traditional customs. For the first time, my mother tasked me with buying the goldfish that we place on the “Haft Seen”. This small task had turned into a difficult mission because the goldfish I had bought seemed to die quite frequently. Of the five fish I had bought, only one survived. On a different note, the Farhang Foundation hosted their annual Nowruz celebration at Royce Hall at UCLA and my friend invited me to take part in the festivities. We went to a concert featuring Mohsen Namjoo, who is a well-known Iranian singer who plays music that takes inspiration from Iranian folk, blues, and rock music. His lyrics were a combination of traditional Iranian poems, his own lyrics, and contemporary poems. It was no surprise that the night was filled with eclectic styles of music. Another Iranian event that has taken place in the past few weeks is “Chahar Shanbeh Soori”, where Iranians jump over fire to burn the bad luck of last year and attain the rich color of the fire. This year I went to “Chahar Shanbeh Soori” at the Civic Center by the West LA Library. I witnessed the celebration that included a singer in a sequined tuxedo, six small fires lined up together, and the insistent chatter and laughter of my fellow Iranians. 

“Jumping Over Fire”

This year there are bound to be difficulties and obstacles, but with perseverance I am sure that this year will be full of successes and accomplishments. May everyone have a great New Year: Eyde Shoma Mabarak!

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