With natural woodland, flowers and areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty all on our doorstep, it’s great to live in the North East of England when it comes to celebrating Sizdeh Bedar. Here’s how we make the most of this Persian tradition – 4,000 miles away from H’s homeland.
Sizdeh Bedar happens each year on the 13th day after Nowruz or Persian New Year. On the 13th day after Nowruz, the last day of the holiday, no one is left at home. On the pretext that the number 13 brings bad luck, no one should be in the house that day. Instead Persians head outdoors for a picnic – Sizdeh Bedar.
Negative energy all soaked up
Seezdah Beedar is also the day when the sabzeh (part of the haft-seen spread) is returned back to nature to encourage regrowth and rebirth. By the 13th day, the sabzeh is thought to have soaked up all the negative energy in the house and some believe that the devil is attracted to it. Whether you believe in this or not, the idea of returning the sabzeh back to nature – and not the bin – has to be a good thing!
We took our sabzeh far from home on Sunday to the Derwent Valley Country Park, which lies between Rowlands Gill and Consett, and ceremoniously cast it (along with the devil) into running water in the beautiful countryside after our picnic. We weren’t alone in the tradition and were joined by many other families who had all brought their sabzeh along to dispose of too.
An ancient tradition
Once the sabzeh is in the water, the passing of the old year is then complete and plans for the new year are made. The tradition can be traced as far back as the 6th Century BC and it is celebrated not just in Persia, but also in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, and Armenia too. It is also customary for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the leaves of the greenery before discarding it, expressing a wish to find a partner.
Persians love picnics and the amount we take with us almost defies description. With a baby in tow however, we needed to be practical and so we packed everything in the buggy. Food, baby stuff, our stuff and we were ready to roll. We headed for a spot that wasn’t too crowded, close to the children’s play area for the older kids and also close to the paved walkway for the buggy! We also chose a spot close to a tree so Cyrus could watch the shadows in the wind.
Unpacking a picnic
We laid out Persian rugs and blankets to sit on and set up our BBQs. We had three of them because of all the people in our group. We then unpacked all the paper serviettes, plates, cutlery, glasses, baskets and cool-boxes, and pots containing delicacies of all kinds, pickled cucumbers, olives, flatbreads, cakes and more.
Eating outdoors is always special for young children and eight-month-old Cyrus was fascinated by everything. He loved the experience of being out in the fresh air, meeting new friends and being free to explore his surroundings. Cyrus wore his special Nowruz T-shirt for the picnic which was designed by Rusks and Rebels Clothing Company. Everyone had brought something to eat. One of our friends made a dish called ash-e reshte for the celebration.
Toasted marshmallows together
We all settled down to eat, drink tea and chat, putting aside all our cares and enjoying ourselves. We ate a noodle and chickpea based soup called ash-e reshte, cooked vegetables, rice, chicken, liver and heart over the fire and then toasted marshmallows. It didn’t matter if we didn’t know everyone who joined us for the day, we were all there to celebrate the same occasion and think about our families who were celebrating it 4,000 miles away too.
Corn on the cob, roasted over charcoal, is very common in Persia. There are corn vendors everywhere and the smell of it cooking reminded me of my time overseas with my in-laws. No Persian meal would be complete without rice, herbs and salad. Our friends cooked two kinds of rice, both plain and sabzi polo (with dill) and made a delicious salad too.
While our picnic proved a walk in the park, it wouldn’t have been complete without a quick nap in the fresh air before we headed home! It was that adorable moment that reminded me how lucky I am to be a new mum over 40, and getting a little sun made the world of difference too.