Sale No Mobarak! (Happy New Year!)
As an Iranian-Canadian student at the University of Ottawa, springtime is always a very special time for me. I get to travel back home to Oakville, Ont, where I celebrate the beginning of spring with my family. For Iranians, the beginning of spring marks a new calendar year, and there are many customs and traditions that come with it.
To start, on the last Wednesday before the new year (which, this year, was March 16), Iranians celebrate Chaharshanbe Soori (or Suri), which directly translates to “Scarlet Wednesday.” Iranians light a fire and jump over it, leaving behind the cold winter and welcoming the warm spring.
For the actual day, many Iranians will prepare a haft-sin (seven “S’s”) table, where each “S” symbolizes something different.
Seeb, or apple, symbolizes health and beauty. Sabzeh, or sprouts, represents rebirth. It is made by growing lentils in a bowl around 12 days before Nowruz, so that they are perfectly sprouted in time for the new year. Samanu, which is a sweet paste set on the table, represents the sweetness of life and the new year to come. Senjed, which is dried fruit, symbolizes love. Seer, or garlic, represents medicine. Sumaq, or sumac berries, represent the colour of the sunrise. And the seventh “S”, serkeh, or vinegar, symbolizes age and patience.
On the day of Nowruz — the New Year — Iranians will likely gather around their haft-sin, or the haft-sin of the elders, to take pictures, drink chai and eat various Persian sweets. They might even gift the younger generations with money, or toys for the younger children.
The past few years have been a difficult time to celebrate Nowruz, since Iranians have had to keep their distance due to the pandemic. Luckily this year, I was able to celebrate with my family. Nowruz is such a special time for me because I get to spend it with my family, but also because it’s a time for reflection. As an Iranian raised in North America, I celebrate the New Year on Jan. 1, like so many others. However, the beginning of spring is really the start of a new year for me. It’s a time where I can reflect on all that I have accomplished in the past year and look forward to what I plan on accomplishing in the next. It’s also a time to appreciate my health, and the health of my loved ones as we are reborn with the seasons.
Knowing many Iranians on our University of Ottawa campus, I thought this might be a great time to reach out to them, wish them a Happy Nowruz, ask what their plans are, and what Nowruz means to them.
Shaliz Dehghani, a third-year health sciences student, said in an interview that for her, Nowruz is a time to be with family and celebrate new beginnings.
“This year, one of my aunts is hosting a dinner party. Friends and family are invited to make up for the fact that the past two years we haven’t really been able to celebrate. We’re going to eat, drink and dance!”
Dehghani’sr favourite part of Nowruz: the food.
Maya Famili, a fourth-year psychology student, said that she is thankful to spend Nowruz this year with her family.
“For me, Nowruz means a time of reflection and looking back at the past year and everything that I’ve been through and hoping for a good new year! I usually celebrate by spending time with family and setting up the haft-seen with my family as well,” said Famili.
Melika Rahimi, a second-year communications student, moved to Canada in Aug. 2021. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to celebrate Nowruz this year, since she doesn’t have family members or a Persian community here.
“Nowruz for me is a fresh start of the year. Even though I’m in Canada, I still have a reason to have a fresh start,” she said.
Rahimi said her favourite part of Nowruz is the eidi, which is the money gifted to younger generations, as well as the food.
Faith Deghan, a third-year political science student with a minor in conflict studies and human rights, said that she will be celebrating with her roommate and a friend who is also Persian.
“We are going to my friend’s house to celebrate with her family,” she said, also mentioning that “Nowruz is a time for family and friends to get together and celebrate.”
Nowruz is such an important time for Iranians as we mark this past year, and look forward to the next. If you have any Persian friends or family, be sure to wish them a Happy Nowruz!
Har ruz-etan Nowruz, Nowruz etan Pyrouz. (Your every day be Nowruz, and your Nowruz be blessed)