Thursday, March 13, 2014

Iranian Nowruz- Haji Firouz

In the countdown to Nowruz, the biggest holiday in Iran, I'll be sharing a few of the traditions with you. Today I'd like to introduce Hāji Firouz. 

Haji Firouz figurine in the Kohan Diyar Gallery in Tehran

Hāji Firouz is sort of the side-kick of Amoo Nowruz, Uncle New Year, who is our version of Santa ClausTraditionally, Hāji Firouz's face is covered in soot, he wears red clothing, and his job is to walk around the streets singing and spreading happiness. He plays a tambourine or a tombak and sings short, repetitive songs (usually in a silly voice). The songs are hard to translate as they are quite frivolous and nonsensical, but just to give you an idea, here are three typical songs and a video so you can get the rhythm:


arbābe khodam, salāmo aleykom // greetings, my own lord
arbābe khodam sareto bālā kon // hold your head up, my lord
arbābe khodam be man negāh kon // look at me, my lord
arbābe khodam lotfi be man kon // do me a favor, my lord
arbābe khodam boz boze ghandi // my own lord, sugar billy goat
arbābe khodam chera nemikhandi? // my lord, why don't you laugh?

beshkan beshkane, beshkan! // It's a snap, snap, snap 
man nemishkanam, beshkan! // I won't snap, snap!
injā beshkanam yār gele dāre // if I snap here, this one will get upset 
unjā beshkanam yār gele dāre // if I snap it there, that one will get upset
in siāhe bichāre cheghadr hosele dāre! // this poor blackened face has a lot of patience

Hāji Firouze, sāli ye ruze // it's Hāji Firouz, one day a year
hame midunan, manam midunam // everyone knows, I know as well
eide nowruze, sali ye ruze // it's Nowruz, one day a year


I remember seeing pictures of my beautiful mom dressed up as Hāji Firouz in an old photo album. When she worked in the children's hospital in nursing school, she and the other nurses would dress up on New Year's Eve to entertain the kids. Though it looks more like a "joker" costume, it was Hāji Firouz. She recalls that the costume had a tail, and when she started singing the first song above (arbābe khodam...), she shook the tail and everyone got a good laugh out of it. 

Mom as Haji Firouz, Tehran, 1965

Mom as Haji Firouz, Tehran, 1965

Though many see a racial issue with his black face, there is no such implication. The way I learned it, in ancient times, Hāji Firouz was sent by Zoroastrian priests to spread the news of Nowruz. As we know, fire is essential in Zoroastrian tradition, so he would encourage and help people to burn their old belongings (making room for renewal) and get the positive energy from the fire (more about this and Chaharshanbe Suri very soon). Hence, his face would become black from all the soot and smoke. 

Stay tuned for more Nowruz fun in the countdown to 1393 (2014)! 


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