How we celebrated the Persian fire jumping festival – Chaharshanbe Suri – in our intercultural family
In the past week, our little intercultural family has started to prepare for the Persian New Year, Norooz, which we will celebrate with friends here in the UK and via video link with family in Persia on Monday.
Norooz is the first day of spring and it’s hard to top the 13-day festivities of the Persia New Year. Norooz means ‘new day’ in Persian and it’s an ancient festival which marks the rebirth of nature. It begins at the stroke of the vernal equinox, when the sun crosses the equator and when it comes, millions of families of Iranian descent gather around a ceremonial table known as the Haft Seen. More on that later!
For me, being a part of all the festivities is not only fun, but since Cyrus came along it has got me thinking about how important it is to maintain your traditions. It also reminds me of my first official Norooz celebrations in Iran when I had the most amazing time with family in Shiraz.
Part of the excitement of being married to someone of a different country is joining in the local holidays and traditions and I’d like Cyrus to grow up with experiences that will provide precious memories that will last a lifetime. Hopefully it will help him keep one foot firmly rooted in culture, while offering learning experiences that might not otherwise occur – as I don’t think he’ll be learning anything about Norooz in the British school curriculum.
Now Chaharshanbe Suri is held on the sunset of the last Tuesday of the Persian year. It is a fire jumping festival (so it’s not something to be tried at home – unless you know what you’re doing). Last night, my little family gathered by the fire, we jumped over it and chanted “Sorkhi-e to az man, zardi-e man az to” which translates to: “Give me your beautiful red colour and take back my sickly pallor.” Suri means red and fiery.
I also bought Ajeel-e Chaharshanbe Suri – a mix of nuts and fruits as it is believed that eating raisins, pistachios, figs, almonds, apricots and hazelnuts on the night of Chaharshanbe Suri will make your wishes come true.
In Iran, bonfires are lit in public places and with the help of light and fire it is hoped for enlightenment and happiness throughout the coming year.
Wednesday in Islamic tradition represents a bad omen day with unpleasant consequences, so the festival is celebrated on a Tuesday night to make sure all bad spirits are chased away and Wednesday will pass uneventfully.
One of the fun activities which Cyrus got involved in last night is done after the fire jumping and it’s called Ghashogh Zani. Now I don’t think my neighbours would have understood or appreciated Cyrus turning up at their door in fancy dress, making a noise by banging his spoon on a bowl.
I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have got his bowl filled with sweets or Ash (Persian soup). So instead we gave him a bowl and spoon to beat out the last unlucky Tuesday of the year (for a very short period) next to the fire and he loved it.