In the warm glow of our friends’ beautiful new home, our intimate dinner celebration unfolded last night, with shared stories of Persian New Year (Nowruz). The evening, rich with talk of Persian customs, took us on a journey through time, seamlessly bridging the past with the present for everyone gathered around the table.
There are so many traditions associated with Nowruz, and last night, I even uncovered some new ones, including the curious custom of boiling milk on the stove to welcome in the new year, a symbolic act – even if none of us knew why. Opening every window in the house to welcome the new year is also a communal endeavour for some in Iran, another age-old belief that makes Nowruz so special. We think this is to do with letting light into the home.
Our friends shared their own fascinating ritual – they let a candle burn until it naturally extinguishes, citing it as a precaution against bad luck. This charming superstition added magic to our gathering, reminding us of the unique and sometimes puzzling traditions of Persian culture.
I opened up about my ongoing saga of attempting to grow and cultivate sabzeh throughout the years. What touched me was the thoughtful gesture of our friends. In a show of support, they pledged to grow extra herbs this year – an endearing safety net for my not so good gardening efforts, and also a shared understanding that makes our time together all the more delightful.
A Delectable Feast
Our friends had prepared a delectable feast for us, featuring sosis bandari, shredded lamb and chicken, paired with authentic Persian sangak which went down a treat. The Persian rollet and noon khamei (profiteroles), were also quickly devoured by Little C and his friend.
As the night unfolded, I challenged H to recite the seven S’s of the haft sin spread and he did so with a newfound eloquence. A moment of pride enveloped the room as we discussed the tradition passed down through generations. Our conversation, naturally gravitating towards the anticipation of Nowruz and the arrival of spring.
Friendships Bridging Cultural Gaps
The significance of having Persian friends in a Western world resonates deeply with us. These connections, fortified by shared experiences, not only bridge cultural gaps but also enrich our lives with a sense of belonging. As we eagerly anticipate painting eggs together at Nowruz, our hearts overflow with gratitude for the cultural connections we’ve forged and the impending arrival of spring.
My First Nowruz
My mind meandered back to memories of my first Nowruz, a quest for Samanu that led to a spontaneous trip to Reza’s patisserie in Kensington, London. There, we acquired all seven S’s of the haft sin spread and an unexpected addition – a goldfish. This aquatic companion made a remarkable journey from London to Newcastle in a plastic bag, becoming a cherished part of our Nowruz tradition for seven years.
Misguided Feeding Instructions
H fondly recounted the moment my dad called us while we were travelling in Iran when he shared news of the goldfish’s demise. Overwhelmed with emotion, I burst into tears when he told me that it had been his misguided feeding instructions that had done it. A tablespoon of food per day, and quite possibly the best last meal this little aquatic friend could have wished for.
My unexpected tears drew concerned glances from my mother-in-law, who, with genuine worry, sought to comfort me. In an attempt to lift my spirits, she shared a tale – one of folklore suggesting that if a goldfish dies, it serves as a symbol of being saved from death oneself. A well-intentioned story meant to bring solace. Despite their heartfelt attempt to ease my emotions, the tears continued to flow.
Time Of Reflection
These recollections serve as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of our lives, bridging the gap between past and present, and emphasising the significance of Nowruz as a time of reflection, growth, and shared narratives.
From Tehran To Shiraz
The reminiscence continued with a trip down memory lane, recounting a Nowruz journey from Tehran to Shiraz – an impromptu decision that added excitement to the festivities. With two dozen family members in tow, we took a 15-hour bus ride, transforming what could have been an arduous journey into one big adventure. Although I remember H having to nudge the driver a few times as he was more than a little tired.
Arriving in Shiraz, the atmosphere was palpable, but our last-minute plans presented a challenge – finding accommodation during Nowruz proved elusive. Faced with a city bursting at the seams with celebrants, our options dwindled until we found ourselves spending two nights in a music school.
The makeshift accommodation meant sleeping on the floor, and I found myself in a room with all of H’s khallehs (aunties). As I settled on the floor, one of H’s aunties cocooned herself in a blanket next to me, leaving us without any covers. While they all slumbered peacefully, I found myself the lone wakeful figure. The memory of that night, spent with H’s extended family in that music school, will always stay with me.
Reminiscing about our trip to Persepolis, somewhere that demanded comfortable footwear, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the memory of our family adventure. Recognising the necessity of flat shoes for this historical site, I chose practicality. However, not all of H’s cousins received the memo, and one daring soul arrived in high-heeled shoes.
Clatter Of Heels
As we strolled through the awe-inspiring ruins of Persepolis, the clatter of heels echoed against the ancient stones, creating a humorous juxtaposition between modern fashion and the ancient wonders surrounding us. Despite the impractical choice of footwear, it added a touch of spontaneity to our excursion.
With our hearts full of gratitude and memories shared, we now look forward to the arrival of spring and the promise of new beginnings. And as the echoes of Nowruz linger, we look forward to the continuation of these traditions.