Festival Commences Persian New Year

Amy Hirsch

There was a festive Persian New Year celebration at the GCC campus on March 12.

The holiday is known as Nowruz, which means “new day.” Nowruz is celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, neighboring former Soviet republics, and in various countries and cities worldwide, including Los Angeles, where a large community of Persian immigrants reside.

It occurs on the first day of the vernal equinox, as the sun is directly over the equator and spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere, with celebrations continuing for the next 13 days.

As the festivities began on a warm, sunny morning, the air was filled with sounds of Persian music played by DJ Alex. There were many people circle-dancing to the fast-paced songs. All were having a good time and more people kept joining in.

According to the event coordinator, Dr. Paris Noori of the department of Academic Counseling, “This has become the biggest annual cultural event for the college community.”

Speakers addressing the crowd included college president Dr. Audre Levy and members of the college Board of Trustees, Dr. Armine Hacopian and Anita Quinonez Gabrielian.

Dave Weaver, Glendale city councilman said, “It’s great when different cultures come together.”

During the event, a variety of booths and tables displayed various features of Persian culture. Included were jewelry, handicrafts, rugs and pastries. One table showed examples of Persian calligraphy.

There was a display of Persian miniature paintings by the artist Badri Borghei. On another table were items for sale such as necklaces and beaded pillow covers in a rainbow of colors. A traditional tea house was also represented.

The event was sponsored by the Persian Student Association. The club’s Web site, www.glendale.edu/persianclub, presents a detailed explanation of various aspects of the holiday.

Nowruz was celebrated as early as 650 B.C. by the Zoroastrians inhabiting Persia at that time. Over the years, holiday traditions continue to be observed by most cultural and religious groups later living in the area formerly known as Persia (now Iran) including both the Muslim majority and the immigrant Christian Armenian community now prevalent in Glendale.

Traditions include Khaneh Tekany or spring cleaning, important to prepare the home for the visit of spirits of deceased relatives. Hospitality is provided with fragrant flowers and spices.

On the last Wednesday of the year, small fires are set up in a row and everyone lines up to jump over them in a ceremony known as Chahar-Shanbeh Suri, representing the giving up of paleness (illness or sadness) to the fire while getting back warmth and energy.

A special table known as Haft-Seen is placed in the home containing seven symbolic edible items beginning with the letter S: Sabzeh (sprouted wheat for abundance), Senjed (a fruit for love), Seeb (apple for health and beauty), Sohan (a sweet for plant roots), Serkeh (vinegar for natural medicine), Sumagh (crushed sumac berries for the spice of life) and Seer (garlic, for health).

Since it is a season of rebirth and a new beginning, it is a tradition to buy a new outfit.

Noori recalled her childhood in Iran: “We put on new clothes and shoes – everything was new, we would get so excited.”

Families dress in their new outfits on New Year’s Day. They celebrate for 12 days by visiting family and friends. The youth visit family members, including their elders. As part of this custom, people exchange gifts and the host offers a variety of cookies and fruit to the guests.

The Nowruz celebration provided an opportunity for people of varying cultures
to participate in an ancient tradition which can be appreciated to this day.