Red-wing blackbirds are making their way back into the area. This morning along Hinesburg Hollow Road I noticed the sentry’s first appearance, a lone cloaked figure waiting atop the golden tufts of roadside catttail. Seemed early (especially for the coinciding return of the mosquitos and other seasonal insects that feed these birds), but then I think of that New England saying about the annual show of autumn foliage: “whenever it gets here, it’s right on time.” Patience…patience.
Cold or warm, birds or no birds, in a definitive downbeat for spring the vernal equinox arrives tomorrow morning at 7:44AM EDT. And with it, the start of the Persian New Year, the annual “Naw Ruz” festivities.
Last Sunday, Bristol’s Holley Hall hosted “Iran Revealed“, a program sponsored by the One World Library Project. Around a hundred guests filled the space in a special celebration of the Persian holidays welcoming the onset of springtime.
The afternoon melted away in the fragrant grasp of jasmine tea, sweetly perfumed rosewater and cardamom candies, and the warm hospitality of the local Samimi family as they shared poetry readings, family photos, and many varieties of personal insight to their long-lived culture.
The second half of the festivities began with a presentation by Steve Zind, a descendent of the Zand dynasty whose many visits to Iran (both personal and professional; each type of visit characterized by its own inherent benefits and setbacks) yielded a lifetime’s journey of beautiful photos, thoughtful observations, and rich stories.
Naw Ruz, we learned, is a celebration originating with Persia’s native Zoroastrians around 2,500 years ago. These days it’s an occasion celebrated by all Iranians, regardless of faith: Muslims, Christians, Jews and Bahá’í all come together in the 13 days of the festival’s activities. It’s a time to visit with families and friends, share traditional foods including apples (for health) and garlic (representing healing, or medicines), eggs (for fertility – it IS springtime!) and prepare the mind and spirit for the New Year.
On the last Wednesday night before the equinox, the darkness is filled with blazing outdoor fires that celebrate the last days of winter in a joyful musical party. Zoroastrianism is, after all, a faith built around the power of earthly elements.
I thought about all of this last night, the Weds. night before the equinox, as I was driving home through the countryside – the half moon shone above and I imagined golden bursts of Naw Ruz fires punctuating the blue hill silhouettes. Not surprised to see that there were none. Unlike Iran right now, the reality of late March in Vermont is nighttime temperatures that still peak in the single numbers and teens.
On the final day of the festival (12th day after the equinox) the celebration comes to an end in a huge outdoor picnic – with (need I mention?) more live music, singing and dancing. As the picnic closes everyone gathers with the small vases or containers of grass they’ve been growing on windowsills – wheatgrass, or lentil or mung bean – and ties the grassblades into loose knots, in the hope for good luck in the coming season and year.
And so, grass knotted, family and friends visited, ancestors remembered and New Year’s hopes secured – Naw Ruz ends and Persians welcome the new season. As do we all – happy springtime!
From the inside of the event’s program, this verse by the 14th c. poet Hafiz:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Where We Live
Is no place to lose your wings.
So love, love,
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