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March 14, 2001     Beverly Hills Weekly
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March 14, 2001
 

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Persian New Year 4 By Rachel Makabi Thousands of Persian families that have immigrated to Beverly Hills from Iran have managed to keep their cultural and religiOus traditions as vibrant as ever. The most celebrated of these holidays is the observance of Now Ruz, the Persian New Year. Now Ruz means "New Day." The holiday represents for Persians a time of rebirth and new beginnings. Now Ruz always begins on the first day of spring, a symbolic gesture of being in harmony with the rebirth of nature. Now Ruz is a national holi- day in Iran, commemorated by Jews, Christians, Muslims and members of the Bahai Faith. It is a mainstream holiday in Persian culture that historically, was a Zoroastrian celebration from ancient times, OLD TRADITIONS IN NEW Traditional Persian Tea Room Costumes SURROIJNI)IN(.;S According to tradition, dur- ing this time the forces of light overcome the forces of darkness. Like the spring, which is a time for new life and new begin- nings, Now Ruz represents a time when people can make a new life and get rid of any negativ- ity from the past. So in the weeks before Now Ruz, many Persian families clean and rearrange their homes, make new clothes, bake pastries and plant new seeds. It is a strange coincidence that so many Persians in Beverly Hills, who emigrated in order to find a better life in this country, should continue to celebrate a holiday about new chances and opportunities in the upcoming year. Now Ruz is a two-week celebration, beginning with Chahar Shanbeh Suri, which falls on the last Wednesday of the Persian year. On this last unlucky Wednesday, people build bonfires of bushes and dried thorns in public places and jump over the flames while shout- ing: "Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly pallor!" The fires sym- bolize the approaching of spring and the destruction of impurity and negativity for the upcoming year. In Los Angeles, many Persians still gather in local parks and beaches to sing, dance and jump over these bonfires. During this tradition, children run through the streets and knock on doors asking for treats, like American children do on Halloween. In Iran, troubadours known as Haji Firuz, disguise themselves with red satins and intri- cate hats while singing and dancing in the streets with tambourines, drums and trumpets. The Haji Firuz frolic merrily around the towns telling jokes and giving gifts to the kids. Many children await this visit in the manner that Christian children await Santa Claus. TIlE tlAtrT-SINN TABI F] Haft Sinn Table Featuring Seven Items Beginning With Letter "S." On the evening before the New Year, family mem- bers gather around the cen- terpiece of Now Ruz, the Haft-Sinn table. If any member of the family is miss- ing for this spe- cial event, their photo is placed on the table. The table fea- tures a cloth topped with seven dishes, each beginning with the Persian letter "s" or Sinn. Since ancient times, the number seven has held importance in Persian culture. The seven dishes are meant to stand for the seven angelic heralds of rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience and beauty. The seven dishes include: I. Sabzeh - Wheat or lentil sprouts symbolizing rebirth and said to bring happiness and purity 2. Samanu - A sweat, creamy pudding made from wheat sprouts that represents free- dom and is supposed to bring strength and productivity. 3. Seeb - An apple representing knowledge, long life, health and beauty 4. Senjed - The sweet dry fruit of the Lotus tree, which is believed to have a fragrance that makes people fall in love 5. Seer - Garlic, which represents medicine and health, said to keep people from bein$ sick in the New Year. 6. Somaq - Sumac berries that represent the color of sunrise and the conquering of evil 10 - Beverly Hills Weekly