I’m going to be honest, I’m quite superstitious and therefore celebrating Nowruz and Sizdeh Bedar (Nature Day) is extremely important to me. Last year, our little family wasn’t able to do anything because of the pandemic. So this year, we were determined to make the most of the annual Persian event and head for the great outdoors for a picnic, albeit on a smaller scale than what we are used to.
Now I have tried to explain our annual ritual to Western friends, but most are either not spiritually-minded or just not interested. At best, they are bemused by the fire-jumping activities that come with Chaharshanbe Suri, an evening when Persians dance and jump over fire hoping the flames will take away the bad from the previous year and bring about a new start. That means it’s often hard and sometimes lonely to celebrate it where we live, but I never get disheartened and instead see it as an opportunity to educate others.
Marking the start of spring
For me, Nowruz is about bringing nature indoors at the start of spring, and for that reason, it’s super-important for my mental health and wellbeing. This year, it has also encouraged Cyrus to learn more about nature and how to look after the environment. Each day prior to school he watered and tended to his lentil sprouts (sabzeh) and it really paid off! It’s the best sabzeh we’ve ever grown. We bought a little Brass Plant Mister for him from Amazon for £20, so he could water his sabzeh in style. It was so easy for him to use too. After I filled it up, all he had to do was point and push the top. It has proved really useful and also a cute decoration for our window sill! Cyrus has now moved on to the larger houseplants now that the sabzeh is gone.
Sizdeh Bedar (Nature Day), as I have explained in a previous post, is held 13 days after Nowruz. Persians spend the day outside having a picnic with friends and family because it’s bad luck to be in the house that day. The lentil sprouts (sabzeh) grown for the haft-sin display are then taken back to nature and cast into running water.
Tradition spans the generations
Growing up, H remembers how families would strap the sabzeh to the bonnets of their cars. They would drive off with them in situ. As a health and safety hazard in the UK, we refrained from doing this. We took pictures of Cyrus with the sabzeh on the bonnet of our car instead. Memories are important if traditions are to stick, which I hope and pray they do.
After some photos, we packed up a picnic lunch and headed for Plessey Woods Country Park in Northumberland. It wasn’t the best picnic I’ve ever prepared because it was without Persian kotlet, but it was enough for H, Cyrus and his pesar khaleh Esi.
Plessey Woods has always been one of my favourite places here in the North East to blow away the cobwebs. It’s somewhere that has given me many happy memories over the years and lovely walks during lockdown. It offers 100 acres of woodland and riversides with picnic areas – so perfect for our Sizdeh Bedar (Nature Day) celebrations.
Sizdeh Bedar Mobarak!
On arrival at the park, we did get some odd looks from dog-walkers as we got our sabzeh from the car. I do think people were intrigued by what we were doing with two bowls full of lentil sprouts. As we walked along the path to the river, we were surprised to hear “Sizdeh Bedar Mobarak!” from a group of young girls. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the smile on Cyrus’s face. He was delighted hearing those words in public.
We walked through the woodland until we reached a little stream which was perfect for casting our sabzeh into the water. We made wishes as Cyrus helped offload his sabzeh into the running water. Some of the sabzeh didn’t want to go with the flow, so C used a stick to push it downstream. Singletons often tie a knot in their sabzeh and then make a wish to find husband in the coming year. Later we saw some children pointing at the sabzeh in the water because it was so green in comparison to our earthy surroundings.
Injecting fun into our lockdown stroll
Our Sizdeh Bedar (Nature Day) celebration is very personal. However this year, it injected some new fun into our weekly lockdown stroll. We can only hope that spring 2021 is the start of a better year ahead. We ended the day with a good old-fashioned BBQ in our back garden.
A friend recently remarked that she wished British traditions were as fun as Nowruz. But when you’re the parent of a four-year-old, there is no off-button. We are always thinking of new ways to engage with Cyrus and help him learn more about the world. It’s hard work to lead the family after a week of work, but you don’t achieve anything without hard work.