Saturday, February 17, 2007

Persian New Year

The Iranian New Year is coming up in about a month. The timing is the best of any culture I've encountered -- it happens on the first day of spring.

Since it is actually a Zoroastrian festival, we know that it pre-dates the arrival of Islam to the area. After Khomenei seized power in 1979, this hugely popular traditional family day was frowned upon because it was secular.

In 1979 I was living in France, where waves of young Iranians sought refuge from the fundamentalist revolution. I made several Iranian friends that year, and then when I returned to the USA, I met more.
They invited me on picnics and to parties where we ate in a big circle on the ground. During dessert and tea they took turns reciting favorite verses from Rumi or Hafez by heart. They taught me how to cook and how to dance. They introduced me to a version of Islam that was kind of like my father's Judaism: cultural, but not literal.

Best of all, they introduced me to the Persian New Year called "NoRuz." It's all about new life, growth, seeds, health, and long life. The center of No Ruz is the "Haft Seen," or the Table of Seven S's" My drawing below includes some of them, but not all.
Look here for a detailed description.

Right around this time each year I begin preparations for my Haft Sin, which I assemble to welcome in the new year and to honor the beauty that Iran has brought into my life since 1979. I'll start my seeds in about two weeks, and then I'll have to borrow a fish. If you have kids, or if you ARE a kid, make a Haft Sin this year. It's really fun.
It makes me sad that Iran and Iraq have been so vilified in these decades, now I worry that Turkey will be next. Their cultures have so much to teach us. If you have an Iranian restaurant in your town, be sure to visit on the first day of spring. Say "No Ruz Mobarak!"


Blogger Suzie said...

What a wonderful celebration! I believe in celebrating the first day of spring too, I love this time of year, everything is so fresh and wonderful. Thank you for introducing me to this culture's interpretation of this holiday. All cultures have something to teach us, don't they?

8:27 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Isn't there a movie about this, featuring a little girl and a white balloon? I can picture parts of it.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Your art is, as always, beautiful and descriptive. I love your use of color in this one.

I agree that the first day of spring is a wonderful day to celebrate and I will remember your story on that day.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Britt-Arnhild said...

How interetsing.
What kinds of seeds will you do?
Great drawings as always.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Your pictures have brought this to life for me and your words have brought me closer to the people too.

But I think we'll have to find a way to celebrate it without a live goldfish... I don't know anyone with one! Maybe I could substitute tadpoles from my pond - we've lots of spawn and maybe by then we'll have tadpoles...

5:03 AM  
Blogger melba said...

Maybe I will make a table; Ethan and Maggie would certainly enjoy a goldfish.
What kind of foods do you eat at your picnic?
Can you help me out with the dates? I read the link, but I am not sure.

You are the best Caroline!:)


10:51 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

It saddens me too when cultures are vilified. There's good and bad in everything, why not look for the good?

The spring equinox is a perfect time to start the year and I love your celebration, and, as always, your drawings.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

oo, i loved learning about the persian new year! thank you for sharing it! i attended a wedding between a zoroastrian woman and a jewish man last year, they did a beautiful job of combining their traditions in the ceremony, using both a priest and a rabbi. it was wonderful. i recently learned about the new year for the trees (a jewish holiday) and yesterday was the chinese new year. so many new beginnings!

7:32 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

How beautiful! I was absolutely captivated by the "Haft Seen" and enjoyed reading even more about it. What great timing for celebration and renewal! Enjoy!

8:30 PM  
Blogger Lucia said...

I'm sitting outside, in the middle of the afternoon in Rwanda. A break between meetings. And came over to see your wonderful, warm drawings, which never fail to make me feel good.

It makes me sad, too, that Iran and Iraq have been marginalized, by people who really know so little about them. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll find an Iranian restaurant in Kigali, but I will say a happy "No Ruz Mobarak!"

8:04 AM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Is it human nature to marginalize the cultures that we don't know -- or is that a uniquely American thing? I just finished (and posted about) a book about Viet Nam. As I was reading it, Iraq and Iran (not to mention Afghanistan) were clearly in my mind. 40 years later, Viet Nam is still trying to heal and what is in store for the countries where we are waging war right now?

3:01 PM  
Blogger Alina Chau said...

HAPPY Persian NEw YEAR!! Lovely wonderful drawing!! THank you for sharing story of your new year!! Wish the new year will bring peace, happiness and harmony. Too many unnecessary conflicts in recent years. it's a great lost to humanity and the greater civilization seeing nations suffers from war and cultures suffer under the turmoil.

BTW, have you read the comic, Persepolis? It's a beautiful autobiography of a young girl's life under the Islamic Revolution. It's sad, yet so much hope and strenght ... think you may love it! :)

1:31 AM  
Blogger Alina Chau said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:31 AM  
Blogger lila said...

I have been lucky enough to go to a No Ruz celebration! It was sevearal years ago...but it was fun! We had so many wonderful foods..esepcially rice dishes.

I love Persian food and ancient customs and traditons fascinate me!

3:15 PM  
Blogger lila said...

I have been lucky enough to go to a No Ruz celebration! It was sevearal years ago...but it was fun! We had so many wonderful foods..esepcially rice dishes.

I love Persian food and ancient customs and traditons fascinate me!

3:16 PM  
Blogger hollibobolli said...

I absolutely adore this illustration. It's such a great - I don't know!!! It's beautiful. The wonder that exists within each culture.

By the way - I was cheered up tonight by cocoa from my wonderful cheer-me-up mug!!!


11:39 PM  
Blogger GreenishLady said...

Oh... thank you for this. I celebrate Naw-Ruz, as it is the New Year in my religion (Baha'i, which originated in Persia). I don't do the table of 7 things, but love to see them in the homes of Iranian friends. Maybe this year, I will do some version... Your illustration is beautiful.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Thailand Gal said...

I have never been to one but will seek it out this year. I'm all for new customs. There are few Iranian people in my area but I'll see if I can find a few.

Loved your pictures.. as always!



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