Friday, March 20, 2009
Eid-e Shoma Mobarak (Happy New Year)
All over the world today, Persian people are celebrating Norooz (also spelled NowRuz & NoRuz in English characters). Timed to coincide with the first moment of spring (literally, it took place here at 4:44 am Pacific Time, but is different all over the world), this is the Persian New Year. Celebrations go for two weeks and include many activities, starting on the last Wednesday of the outgoing year, called Chahar Shanbeh Suri. On the evening of the last Wednesday, Persians light small bonfires and jump over them shouting:
Give me your beautiful red color
And take back my sickly pallor!
They also set up a Haft Seen, or table with seven items that begin with the letter “S” (Haft means seven, and Seen means “S” in the Persian alphabet).
The festivities end on the thirteenth day of the new year, called Sizdah Bedar, (Sizdah means thirteen and Bedar means outdoors). To escape the bad luck associated with the number thirteen, families leave their homes to head outside for a picnic, literally entire cities like Tehran empty out into parks and any scrap of land (including traffic medians) to picnic on this day.
This year, just before NoRooz, my sister Marisa and my brother-in-law Nickrooz (who is from Iran) journeyed down from Seattle to our house. In addition to celebrating Marisa's 40th (OMG!) birthday (can my lil' sis really be 40???) they put on a wonderful presentation for our homeschool group and neighbors on Nick's home country of Iran and on Norooz.
We started off with a Persian potluck, with every family cooking and bringing a dish from recipes my sister mailed me. I tackled "Shollehzard" or a rice pudding made with saffron, rose water, and decorated with pistachios and cinnamon (here, my sis and brother-in-law show the gorgeously decorated pudding, almost too pretty to eat!). The food was awesome, such a great idea to get us in the mood of an entirely different culture. Persian cooking is very distinctive, and my kids have gotten used to sampling some of uncle Nickrooz's dishes (his "green rice" has been a perpetual favorite).
After eating, they showed slides from their two trips back to Iran, showing the kids everything from markets and roads to ski slopes and playgrounds. They had put together a terrific presentation that really gave a picture of life in Iran, which is a bit different from the kinds of things you see in the media about Iran on a daily basis. The kids asked lots of questions. I think they were most impressed with the fact that the bazaar in Tehran is 12 miles long!
All in all it was a wonderful way to get a peek into a different culture, something you might not be exposed to every day. I've been grateful to have my brother-in-law Nick in our lives, because I have learned many things myself about Iran that I would've never known. It was nice to be able to share that with our friends and have a great evening together as well.