Persian New Year: Iranians share traditions with Truro community


Published on March 14, 2017

TRURO, N.S. – Iranians living in Truro want to share their Persian New Year with the community.

“I have lived here for 27 years,” says Flora Riyahi. “People here have very kindly shared their Christmas with me and it has become a part of my life. My close Canadian friends know all about Nowruz, the Persian New Year, but I’m excited to share it with more of the community.”

Riyahi and other Iranians, including Negar Sharifi Mood and Rojman Khomayezi, have arranged several events this year to share some of the highlights of the Persian New Year celebrations – which last two weeks, much like our Christmas and New Year’s.

Tuesday a group got together with youth to decorate eggs much the way people celebrate Easter in western traditions.

Wednesday night they will hold the Chahar Shanbeh Soori, or Festival of Fire; on the last Wednesday before the New Year, people jump over a bonfire to get rid of bad energy from the old year and pick up good energy from the fire to carry into the New Year.

And Friday they will hold a community Nowruz, or New Years celebration at the Jenkins Hall at the Dalhousie Agriculture College. Dr. Hossain Farid will give an introduction of the Persian New Year celebrations, followed with a traditional fish and rice dinner and a night of dancing.

The actual Persian New Year happens at the exact moment of the Spring equinox which this year is 7:28 a.m. on Monday, March 20.

Astronomically speaking, the equinox is the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator with a night and day of the same length. It changes by about six hours every year.

“We actually like it when it is early in the morning,” says Riyahi. “Immediately after the New Year, we start visiting. So if it’s early in the morning we can visit people all day. If it is at night, then we have to wait until the next morning to go visiting.”

Same as we count down to midnight on Dec. 31, Iranians, and every TV and radio station in Iran, count down to the equinox – and then everyone hugs and kisses and wishes each other a healthy happy New Year.

For the countdown Iranians gather round a specially decorated table carrying the Haft Seen, literally, the Seven Seen, or Seven Items Starting with the Letter S. The seven items represent what the family is wishing for in the New Year.

-      sprouting wheat, barley or lentils symbolizing rebirth

-      sweet pudding symbolizing affluence

-      dried wild Olive nuts symbolizing love

-      garlic symbolizing medicine and health

-      Sumac symbolizing the colour of sunrise

-      vinegar symbolizing old age and patience

Tables may also hold coins ( symbolizing wealth), goldfish in a bowl (representing life), painted eggs (representing birth) and more.

Riyahi is excited to share Iranian culture with her Truro neighbours.

“People know very little about Iranian culture, and what they learn on T.V. is not the real story,” she said. “Iranians are vibrant, happy, party-animal people. We love to dance, we love to party, we love to celebrate life.”

Preparing for the Persian New Year

Before Nowruz, Iranians do a major spring cleaning called “Shaking the House”, they buy new clothes to wear for Nowruz, they decorate eggs and they plants seeds for the Haft Seen table.

Festival of Fire - Chahar shanbeh soori

Wednesday, March 15, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

At Jenkins Hall, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus

$5 per bowl of traditional Persian soup (Ash Reshteh)

Iranians prepare for the New Year by jumping over a bonfire on the last Wednesday before the New Year. They sing to the fire “I give you my yellowness, I take your redness.” The tradition is believed to rid participants of their old and tired energy and infuse with new and vibrant energy to take into the New Year.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and fire jumping starts at 7 p.m.

Persian New Year – Nowruz

Friday, March 17, 7 p.m. to -12:30 a.m.

At Jenkins Hall, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus

$22 for adults; $50 for a family of four plus $5 for each extra child or youth over 12; children under 12 free

Only a few tickets remaining. For more information, contact Esther:  esther_bejarano@ymca.ca,  or Rojman: Rkhomayezi@dal.ca.

Nowruz means “new day”. Dr. Hossain Farid will explain the Nowruz traditions. Hall decorations will include a Haft Seen or special New Year’s table. The brief talk will be followed by traditional fish and rice dinner and then a dance.

jonathan.riley@tc.tc