East Syracuse Wishes for a happy new year may be three months in the past for many, but for the Persian community, that celebration is just around the corner. This year, not only does March 20 mark the first day of spring, but also the Persian new year, 1392. An estimated 300 residents in Central New York, according to Mehrzad Boroujerdi, professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, will celebrate Nowruz, the name for the holiday. Boroujerdi, also director of the Middle Eastern studies program at Syracuse University, is the organizer of this year’s local Persian New Year party.
Nowruz includes three main celebrations: a bonfire event that is held to ask for good health in the new year, a New Year’s party, and a picnic or other outdoor event. The picnic takes place on the 13th day of the new year,as it is held that misfortune may happen on that day and may be avoided by spending the day away from the home. Boroujerdi explains that Nowruz, which means “new day”, is a holiday for rejuvenating oneself, solidifying friendships, and focusing on family.
“Our new year starts on the first day of the season that means rebirth,” Boroujedi said.
Sohyla Ziaie, a past organizer of the Central New York New Year’s party and owner of Kashani gift shop in Liverpool, points out the similarity to the same-season holiday, Easter.
“We even hide eggs for the kids at the picnic,” she said.
Records are unclear, but Nowruz is a holiday that may have been celebrated for nearly 3,000 years. While it originated in Iran, it is observed in Afghanistan, Central Asia, India, Turkey and the United States. According to histories, traditions leading up to the Persian holiday include cleaning the house and buying new clothes. This may be attributed to the tenant of renewal. It also is customary to pay visits to older relatives. As with many holidays, certain foods that are served, such as seeds and apples, have significance. At celebrations, a spread is set with a display of symbols of the holiday: goldfish in a bowl, apples, a planter of grass, a mirror with candles, flowers, eggs, and other items. The items on the spread represent values such as health, love, age and patience, and good conquering evil.
While her sons were in elementary school, Ziaie educated local school children on the tradition by bringing items for a Persian New Year party into the classroom.
“I wanted the other kids to learn about this holiday my sons celebrate,” she said.
The Central New York Persian New Year party is set for Sunday, March 24. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Details are available by calling Boroujerdi at 885-4055. In addition, Ziaie will serve traditional Persian treats at Kashani Home Décor and Gift Shop on March 22 and 23, in celebration of the Nowruz holiday.