Chaharshanbe Suri

Emily is currently studying abroad in Tajikistan.  At UVa, she studies Middle Eastern Languages & Literatures and Foreign Affairs; she is a member of the Class of 2013.  

Well Monday March 21st is Nowruz – the Persian New Year. Nowruz celebrations in Tajikistan, involves lots of Osh, dancing, games, and brightly colored kurtas.
In Iran the last Tuesday night of the old year is called Chaharshanbe Suri. It’s a prelude to Nowruz. In Iran people make bonfires in the streets and jump over them saying
“زردی من از تو، سرخی تو از من”
zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man”
“my yellowness (sickliness) is yours, your redness (health) is mine”
Basically the fire is supposed to take away sickness and problems and give us warmth and energy. Chaharshanbe Suri dates back to the early Zoroastrian era, about 1700 BC. In the office we celebrated Chaharshanbe Suri on Friday, as it was raining Tuesday night and nearly impossible to build a fire. In Tajikistan Chaharshanbe Suri isn’t celebrated by the general public, and the holiday really is specific to Iran.
The office additionally had a Nowruz party this Friday. For Nowruz we set up a Haft Sin table. The Haft Sin table includes seven items which begin with the letter S or Sin (س). The items symbolically represent the coming of spring, rebirth, and good fortune for the coming year. I’ve included a picture of our office Haft Sin, and a description of the seven traditional items, below.
1. Sabzeh – sprouts growing in a dish, which symbolize rebirth
2. Samanu – a pudding made from wheat germ, symbolizing affluence
3. Senjed – a sweet dried fruit which symbolizes love
4. Sir – garlic, symbolizing medicine and health
5. Sib – apples, symbolizing beauty and health
6. Somaq – ground sumac berries, which represent the color of the sunrise
7. Serkeh – vinegar, representing age and patience
In addition to our Haft Sin table we reenacted the coming of spring, with the lovely Gabby, dressed in a traditional kurta, playing the role of “the Queen of Spring” and Kramer filling the role of her “groom.” Osh was cooked and eaten, dances were performed, and eggs were painted. Yes, think Zoroastrian Easter.
I’ll post another entry after actual Nowruz celebrations occur here – for now, I’m enjoying the warmer weather and sunshine. It’s nice to be less dependent on a space heater for general comfort, and since it stopped snowing the power hasn’t gone out nearly as much, and the internet seems a wee bit faster (trying to watch a video on Youtube is still unfortunately too difficult for the internet here). I’m even hoping that the arrival of spring introduces vegetables other than carrots into my host family’s diet… rumor has it that radishes exist over here, and I might go to a bazaar to hunt some down in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.