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The Alborzi Standard
STARTING FRESH WITH PERSIAN NEW YEAR
I love spring. Everything is fresh and new — new flowers, new growth, and new changes. On top of that, the Persian New Year, called Norooz, is celebrated in the spring. Norooz is a little bit like a combination of Christmas and New Year’s Day. The holiday has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years, and it isn’t religiously oriented in any way. Instead, Norooz is all about cultivating hope for the future and shedding the past. It’s a celebration of all things new. An important part of this celebration is setting the table, called the Haft-Sin table. My family would always place on the table seven symbolic items that start with the Farsi letter S: wheatgrass, herbs, dried food, and vinegar, to name just a few. Everything on the table represented a different aspect of life, like health, prosperity, and knowledge. At the moment of vernal equinox, which we celebrate as the new year in Iran right when the sun crosses the equator, the whole family would be there to welcome the new year by gathering around the Haft-Sin table. Sometimes, it was 2 a.m. Still, we would be there, dressed in the fresh new clothes that are traditionally worn for Norooz, to welcome back the light. Since Norooz is all about starting fresh, it’s traditional to do a deep-clean in preparation for the holiday. My family would open every cabinet and scrub every corner of our house top to bottom for Norooz. This is also a
wonderful time of year to come together as a family and clean out the stuff you accumulate over the past year. Plus, you can figure out what to donate to charity, either directly or by having a garage sale and donating the proceeds. Once the new year has started, most people in Iran have a week or two off of work, and just like Christmas break in the U.S., most Iranians spend that time visiting family. Growing up, my family would always go to Isfahan, which was the historic capital of Iran before Tehran became the capital, to visit family.
In Isfahan, the older members of our family knew we were coming. They would be at home waiting for us to stop by, ready to give us the gold coins the older members of family traditionally gave younger family members. They would have pastries and other nice foods ready to share with us. To this day, I still have the small gold coins I collected over the years during Norooz. Some Persians I know in the U.S. still keep up these traditions, but I have been in the U.S. since I was 15 years old, and these days, I mostly just celebrate Christmas. Still, every year when spring comes around, I think about Iran and Norooz, and I try to focus my energies on starting fresh. How will you start fresh this spring?
Back home, it’s traditional for the younger members of the family to make the effort to visit the older members of the family as a sign of respect. Since my father was younger, we would always travel.
–Dr. Alexa Alborzi
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