Monday, March 21, 2005

Norooz - Part 1

Yesterday, for the first time in my life away from my family in Norooz, I started my new year along with two of my friends visiting a historical beautiful town near Toulouse. For Iranians, without a doubt, Norooz is the most important celebration of the year and the vacation coming with it is the most awaited one! The word "Norooz" means New Day. Actually preparation for Norooz starts almost one month before, with a tradition called "Khane-tekani" which means cleaning almost everything that exists in a house. So everybody living in a house are supposed to help clean the house upside-down! Then starts the preparation of people themselves with buying new clothes and cooking or buying special cookies and sweets for Norooz. Also among the things that are bought are gold fishes, usually two of them for each house which decorates part of what is called a "Haft-sinn". Haft-sinn is almost a must-be item in every Iranian house during Norooz days. It means putting seven specific things(all starting with the sound "S" or in Persian alphabet "sinn") beside each other on a table which represent the fertility and reborn of nature. These seven objects are

1. "Sabzeh" which is a group of grown wheat seeds tied together

2. "Somagh" (I don't think there is any word for this in English! I have only seen it in Iran and it is something usually eaten with the Iranian traditional food "chelokabab")

3. "Senjed" (This one I don't know in English! I couldn't find it anywhere)

4. "Sonbol" (lavender)

5. "Sekke" (coin)

6. "Seer" (garlic)

7. "Serkeh" (vinegar)

Other than these as I said there is also gold fish and a mirror which in Iranian beliefs is a sign of prosperity and happiness. It was interesting that yesterday for the first day of the new year, Google had changed its logo in Persian page to a "Haft-sinn"!

Then comes the day for "charchanbeh-soory", the last Wednesday of the year. The night before, usually friends or families gather together to celebrate this night. It usually starts by making a big fire. The scenes seen in that night are always really interesting. When you look along a street or an avenue you see fires in front of most of the houses. And if a fire among them was bigger than the rest, after some time everybody gathers around that fire and start talking to each other. Younger people do fireworks. And everybody jumps over the fire. In Toulouse, that day we went to a park nearby, called Pech David. Some of the Iranians had come there. So luckily I had the chance to jump over the fire this year, again! After the fire people go inside to eat dinner. After the dinner again comes the time for youngsters to go out for "Ghashogh-zani" or what we call "bille-bille" or "shal-sallamagh" in Azerbaijan. Boys may wear scarf and put on women's clothing and girls draw mustache and beard in order to avoid being recognized by the friends or families who they knock on their doors. They may get so many different things like colored and painted eggs or cookies and sweets. But they must come back to their house because the next day very early in the morning they should get up to go bring water from a river or a spring nearby. As far as I know this is being done only in Azerbaijani part of Iran. Although now with urban living it is not so easy to do things like this but as early as 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning the streets outgoing the city are almost blocked by huge number of cars going to bring water. And this water usually is brought in mud jars. But, well, some of these traditions are fading or changing to other things as years pass.

After all of these, the most important day finally arrives. Before this day "haji firooz", usually a thin man with red clothes and painted black face, announces the coming of "Amoo Norooz" (uncle Norooz) which will bring spring with himself. But this "Amoo Norooz" is somehow different with Santa, because in fact he comes mysteriously and nobody knows what he looks like. The only fact is that he is very old!!!

But other than these stories, Norooz itself is a very precise time. Actually Iranian calendar seems to be the most precise calendar being used. As far as I know, the Gregorian calendar that is used in every western country has a one-day error in every five hundred years (that is why they skipped the leap year in Y2K). That is one day in every million years for Iranian calendar. And the other thing that I like is the time the year changes. It is not midnight like other countries. It is the time which is exactly the same for everywhere on earth, so in fact everybody can start the new year in the exact same time. The reason for this is that this precise time is based on the movement of earth around the sun and it is the time when the earth passes the Vernal Equinox of its orbit around the sun. This is good because everybody around the globe can celebrate an exact time together and it is in fact the real start of spring.

I think I'm now in the halfway of the story, so I leave writing the second part for tomorrow!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

cooooooolllll .... that was amazing ... im iranian too & can't wait for norooz comin' up ..