Happy Nowruz my friends! In other words, “Happy Iranian (or Persian) New Year!” I made a “Nowruz Celebration Film” in my Documentary Filmmaking class at UCLA that I wanted to share. “Nowruz” is the Farsi term which means “the new day“, a celebration of the start of Spring. I have had the fortune to celebrate with my good friend Sherry and her extended family in Aliso Viejo for many years.
Nowruz Celebration Film
Nowruz is a week-long celebration with many exciting festivities. It’s a time for spring cleaning and another excuse for families to spend time more together. As many know, Iranian and Middle-Eastern culture, in general, put their families and relatives as number 1 priority. Though they get together often, the Persian New Year is an excuse to spend even more time together to celebrate a fresh and scared time.
Nowruz: Festival of Fire
The night before the last Wednesday of the year (Tuesday) is the most important day to celebrate. This celebration is known as “Chahārshanbe Suri“, the Iranian Festival of Fire. “Sur” meaning feast, party or festival in Farsi. The tradition of jumping over fire resembles purification into a new start, a new year. This festival is the celebration of the light (the good) winning over the darkness (the bad). The symbolism behind the rituals are all rooted back to Zoroastrianism.
The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jumping over them while singing the traditional song:
“Zardi-ye man az (ane) to, sorkhi-ye to az (ane) man“. “Az-ane to” means ‘belongs to you’. This literally translates to “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me.”
Haft Seen: The 7 Elements of Life
The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or spirit, in preparation for the new year. In every Persian household, is a traditional “Haft Seen” placed on a table all week long which represents the 7 “S”. The Seven Elements of Life: namely Fire, Earth, Water, Air, Plants, Animals, and Human, are represented. The Haft Sīn items are:
- Sabzeh: wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish – symbolizing rebirth
- Samanu: a sweet pudding made from wheat germ – symbolizing affluence
- Senjed: the dried fruit of the oleaster tree – symbolizing love
- Sīr: garlic – symbolizing medicine
- Sīb: apples – symbolizing beauty and health
- Somaq: sumac berries – symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
- Serkeh: vinegar – symbolizing age and patience
And my favorite part of the Nowruz Celebration? The Abundance of FOOD! The most popular dish is Sabzi Polo, rice with fish and herbs. The traditional seasoning for Sabzi Polo is parsley, coriander, chives, dill and fenugreek (arguably the best combo of herbs!). The running joke for newbies into a middle-eastern party is that the first round of food comes and you stuff yourself silly thinking its the main course until the real main dishes come an hour later and you realize that you just ate the appetizers. The food doesn’t stop coming. Yummy. Lastly, I love all the dancing, singing and kisses on both cheeks. Salamati! (cheers in Farsi)