Pegah Shahghasemi is my friend and long-time studio neighbor on the Brookland Arts Walk. Pegah is Iranian American, and grew up with her family in Tehran, Iran celebrating Norooz. She is the founder of Norooz Market that’s happening on March 15th 1-5pm on The Brookland Arts Walk. Follow @noroozmarket on instagram for more information.
What is Norooz to you and your family?
Norooz is watching wheat grains split and release their magical green wiggly creatures from within. It is gold fish swimming in a bowl with a frilly rim. It's Sofreh Haftseen with colorful pottery and candles in the reflection of a mirror. It's Maman (mom) in her glory, with old upbeat music wafting from the kitchen as she cooks. It's preparing for the road trip to visit family. It's the budding trees whizzing by the window of Baba’s (Dad’s) car. It’s singing with conviction to the’ music through the car stereo. It's getting into trouble for playing too far away in the countryside. It's Eidi (a cash gift), dreaming about all the magnificence it could buy me after Norooz. It's the moment when the New Year arrives with a blast from the giant horns and Maman whispering the New Year's prayer which is granted almost immediately: “O, reformer of hearts and minds, director of day and night, transformer of conditions, alter ours to its best.”
How do you Celebrate?
My family and I will be ready the moment the earth has gone around the sun full circle, the exact moment the Spring Equinox happens. This year it will be on Sunday March 20th at 11:33am. We will count down to the minute, cheer and embrace each other. My husband Brook and I will give cash to the girls, out of a Quran that belonged to my mom, which she gifted to me long ago. We call my parents first to wish them happy New Year, and then the rest of my family and relatives. The girls will definitely get a day off from school if the day falls on a school day. Since I don’t have any relatives here, I invite friends over for dinner to share an Iranian meal.
What is your earliest memory about the holiday?
Going to the small village (it is a city now) where my dad is from called Masiri. His family has farms there and I loved being there with all my cousins and getting into trouble. One year one of my younger cousins set the barn on fire.
Can you talk a little about the symbolism of the elements on the Haft-Seen table?
They are rather wonderful. I copied this from Wikipedia.
- Sabzeh (سبزه): Sprouting /Grass: the symbol of rebirth and growth.
- Samanu (سمنو): Wheat Pudding: the symbol of power and strength.
- Senjed (سنجد): Wild Olive: the symbol of love.
- Somāq (سماق): Sumac: the symbol of sunrise.
- Serkeh (سرکه): Vinegar: the symbol of patience.
- Seeb (سیب): Apple: the symbol of beauty.
- Seer (سیر): Garlic: the symbol of health and medicine.
Other items that start with Persian letter "س" that are sometimes included:
- Sonbol (سنبل): Hyacinth: the symbol of spring's arrival.
- Sekkeh (سکه): Coins: the symbol of wealth and prosperity.
- Saat (ساعت): Clock: the symbol of time.
Items that don't start with "س" but, nonetheless, are invariably included:
- Tokhm-e Morg Rangi (تخممرغ رنگی): Eggs: the symbol of fertility.
- Ayina (آینه): Mirror: the symbol of self-reflection.
- Shem'a (شمع): Candle: the symbol of enlightenment.
- Maahi-ye Qırmız (ماهی قرمز): Goldfish: the symbol of progress.
- Ketaab (کتاب): Book: the symbol of wisdom.
Tell us about the fire jumping:
The last Wednesday of the year, everyone gathers outside with their friends and family and lots of food and drinks. They make fires and dare each other to jump over the fire. When you jump, you say a little mantra which translate to something like a conversation with the fire saying, Take all of my yellow (sickness, sadness) and give me all of your red (health).
My family and I light candles and jump over them, to keep it safe and small.
How can others engage and learn more about Norooz?
If you meet some one who celebrated Norooz, wish them a Happy New Year or in Farsi, Norooz Mubarak.
Here's more info:
If in Washington, DC come to Norooz Market on The Brookland Arts Walk.
The word Norooz (Novruz, Navruz, Nooruz, Nevruz, Nauryz), means New Day; its spelling and pronunciation may vary by country