Monday, March 17, 2014

Iranian Nowruz- Chaharshanbe Suri

On the eve of the last Wednesday before Nowruz, Iranians celebrate Chāhārshanbe Suri, Red Wednesday or Light Wednesday. This Zoroastrian tradition dates back to 1700 BCE. On this evening, Iranians set off fireworks and set up large bonfires in the streets to jump over while singing:

sorkhiye to az man // your red color for me 
zardiye man az to // my yellow color for you

This means you give the fire your yellow pallor, a sign of sickness, and ask the fire to give you its red color, a sign of warmth, energy, and health. 

Photo source:
Photo: Wikipedia

Many people are familiar with the tradition of fire-jumping associated with Chāhārshanbe Suri, but there are a number of other traditions as well. 

The first one is reminiscent of Halloween. On Chāhārshanbe Suri, people knock on doors with a ladle, and neighbors put things such as nabāt or ājeel in the ladle. My dad recalls being given eggs in his hometown of Taleghan, and my mom says they often gave noghl in her hometown of Neyshabur. 

Another tradition is kuzeh shekani, breaking water jugs. People used to keep water in kuzeh, but throughout the year, it would get old and dirty. Since Nowruz is all about renewal, friends and neighbors would put some coins in the empty kuzeh and break them so they'd have to buy new ones for the new year. Children would then collect the money that came out of the broken kuzeh.


And the best tradition (after fire-jumping, of course) I saved for last. Like Shabe Yaldā, Chāhārshanbe Suri is another auspicious day on which Iranians like to interpret fāl, divination. However, while on Shabe Yaldā, Iranians read Fāle Hafez, on Chāhārshanbe Suri, it's tradition to do fālgush, eavesdrop, and interpret what you hear as divination. People stand sare chāhār rāh, at intersections, and make a wish (niyat kardan). Then they listen to what the first person who walks by says and interpret that. 

Here is a video of the fire-jumping festivities in Rasht last year. If you think it looks incredibly fun yet incredibly dangerous, you are right. But as we say

عزیزم اینجا ایرانه / azizam injā Irāne This is Iran, my dear. 

Happy Chāhārshanbe Suri!

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