Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Persian New Year

I celebrated "Nowruz" on the weekend. This is the name for the celebrations at Persian New Year - "Now" means new and "ruz" means day. These celebrations occur when the season changes from winter to spring on the "vernal equinox", usually around March 20th/ 21st.

The Anesthetist has a crazy Iranian friend who invited us. Crazy in a good way. She has just got back from Iran so was in a particularly Persian frame of mind this night, with her long skirts and scarves and rings and bells. She had organized a chef friend of hers to cook a delicious four course Iranian meal. Louisa Shafia has an Iranian background herself, but grew up in the US. She is beautiful - to look at and as a cook- and believes in healthy, wholesome cooking. The anesthetist bought me her book called Lucid Food which focuses on organic and seasonal cooking principles. The recipes are super simple and very tasty.

So we ate a yummy meal of persian fetta, baked eggs, stuffed fish and persian sorbet. And I learnt a little about what this festival entails.

Nowruz reflects the renewal of the Earth with the coming of spring. The celebrations are similar to other religious celebrations in different cultures. The difference is the Iranians always prepare a haft-seen table, which is a table containing seven things that begin with the letter 'S' with each item symbolizing something:

  • Sumac (spice): for the surprise and the spice of life
  • Senjed (sweet dry fruit of the lotus tree): for love and affection
  • Serkeh (vinegar): for patience and age
  • Seeb (apples): for health and beauty
  • Sir (garlic): for good health
  • Samanu (wheat pudding): for fertility and sweetness
  • Sabzeh (sprouted wheatgrass): for rebirth and renewal
Other items can also go on the haft-seen table, such as a bowl of goldfish for new life, eggs for fertility, coins for prosperity, hyacinths to celebrate spring, candles to radiate light and happiness and a book of poetry by Hafiz, a sufi poet from the 14th century.  Apparently the custom during Nowruz is to open the book of poetry randomly and read that poem. The subject of this poem then becomes the guide for your new year.

Our friend created a beautiful table, but of course somehow those photos were deleted off my camera. So you can kind of see it behind Lousia telling us about our feast.

The political tensions between Iran and this country are running high at the moment. But the President still made time to address the Iranians and wish them well in their new year celebrations. For my part, I am so glad I learnt something about a culture so different to ours, and was able to celebrate it peacefully with food, friends and a sense of warmth. It's inspired me to finally read a much loved bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran.

images: absolute astronomy, the daily green, 


Tricia Rose said...

What an inspiring idea! I hope the Earth doesn't mind if I do it a few days late.

Jane said...

That food and wonderful lady is right up your alley. Divine.