Persians Celebrate New Year

El Vaquero News Editor

Colorful balloons, white tents and Persian rugs lined Plaza Vaquero at noon on March 30. Students and guests danced energetically on the grass to funky Iranian music. The scent of kabobs and the sound of laughter filled the air. It was a festive day on campus as the college’s approximately 800 Persian students and faculty celebrated the Persian New Year, Norooz, with the rest of the school.

“This is the biggest cultural event on campus every year,” said Paris Noori, college counselor and Persian Club adviser. “It shows different aspects of the Persian culture.”

The annual campus event, planned and organized for months by the Persian Club, is the main feature of a 13-day celebration. “We start preparing for this at the beginning of the semester,” said Persian Club president Farinaz Sahabi. “We get some families and businessmen to donate [money and Persian products].”

Booths were set up at Plaza Vaquero, and these sold Persian products such as rugs, jewelry, clothes and food, and also displayed various cultural items such as paintings, silverware and musical instruments. A tearoom that served Persian coffee, tea and pastries was also set up.

The event was attended not only by GCC students and faculty, but also by many guests from outside the campus, according to Sahabi. It was also covered by local newspapers as well as by several Persian radio and TV stations.

“It brings the college a lot of publicity,” Noori said. “There were four TV stations on campus last year and three of those were international. The event was shown in Europe and Iran via satellite.” According to Noori, the New Year is one of the biggest celebrations for Persians all over the world.

According to, in traditional Persian culture, the Norooz or No-ruz celebration includes Khaneh Tekany or spring cleaning; the Chahar-Shanbeh Suri or Wednesday Feast; the Seezdah-Bedar which families celebrate with picnics on the 13th day; and the setting of a Haft-Seen, which means “Seven S’s” and consists a special table with seven edible items whose Persian names start with the letter S.

“These seven items are the symbols of something,” said Noori. The food is said to bring good things for the New Year, such as abundance, fruitfulness, love and affection. A large, elaborate Haft-seen table was set up under a tent on Plaza Vaquero last week.

Another custom typical of the celebration is the appearance of the Haji Feerooz, a traditional symbolic figure dressed in red. A young man dresses up in a traditional red costume, colors his face black and parades around the celebration dancing, singing and telling jokes _” the Persian version of a court jester. His purpose is to bring joy to families.

“I remember when I was a kid [in Iran], we would see him on the streets,” Noori said with a smile. A Haji Feerooz also made a jovial appearance on campus during the event, drawing smiles from most students and inviting them to dance.

Noori adds that the Persian New Year is especially enjoyable for children. “They go and visit older people in the family. The older people give children money.” The tradition of visiting is called the Deed-o-Bazdeed, and this prompted some students and faculty to bring their children to the college to meet friends and relatives.

One of the guests on campus was Persian artist Badri Borghei. “This celebration represents Persian culture very well,” said Borghei, whose miniatures and coffee table book containing her paintings were on sale in one of the booths. “It’s a very well-organized event.”

For Noori, the best part of the Norooz celebration on campus is the dancing. Students, whether they are Persian or not, apparently enjoy congregating on the grass and dancing for hours to Persian music every year.

“It’s beautiful to see them united,” Noori said. “That’s an important part of our mission with the Persian New Year. We try to promote cultural diversity on campus.”