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March 16, 2000     Beverly Hills Weekly
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$ Light Over Darkness: A Now Ruz Celebration By Shirin Danielpour ii Iranian festivities will surround the City this Sunday evening as the community celebrates the year 1379 on the Iranian calendar. Now Ruz, meaning New Day, marks the beginning of spring when light prevails over darkness as the sun crosses the earth's equa- tor and the length of daylight and darkness becomes equal. Now Ruz is a celebration bf spring, which represents birth, cleanliness, virtue, justice, newness and awakening. It is a time, like the American New Year, to dissolve of the negativity of the past and make a fresh start. It is a joyous celebration to be spent with friends and family. For Americans there is a Santa Claus at Christmas time, and for Iranians we call him Uncle Now Ruz at springtime. He comes every Now Ruz with a bag of special flowers to tell children to put on their new clothes and celebrate. On Now Ruz it is customary to always wear new clothes in representation of a new beginning. Some families in Los Angeles still perform a thorough cleaning of their homes during the month preceding Now Ruz. The furniture is cleaned; carpets are washed; and walls are re-painted. Iranian culture focuses on traditional customs when bringing in the New Year. The centerpiece of the tradition is the Haft Seen table, which is composed of seven symbolic items whose names start with an "s" in Farsi. A few minutes before the New Year, fam- ily members gather around the table (if a family member is absent his/her picture is placed on the table). At this time everybody makes their own prayers or wishes for the coming year and when the New Year arrives there is the usual cheering, hugging and clapping. Then everyone sweetens his/her mouth with the sweets on the Haft Seen. Traditionally, the "head" of the family distributes gifts (usually gold coins or brand new dollar bills) to everyone. HAFT SEEN TABLE Sabzeh Sprouted grains or lentils (green grass) are placed on the table to symbolize life. It is believed to bring happiness, purity and good life in the coming New Year. Seeb A red apple symbolizes knowledge and long life. It is believed to bring a healthy and happy appearance on people. Samanou A sweet porridge made from wheat and flour symbolizes freedom. It is believed to bring strength and productivity in the New Year. Sombol Hyacinth, which is a spring flower, symbolizes peace, love and kindness. It creates an extraordinary scent on the table. Sekeh Gold coins are placed on the table to symbolize wealth. It is believed to bring courage in the New Year. Seer Garlic is placed on the table as a symbol of health. It is believed to keep you away from sickness in the coming year. Senjed A sweet, dry, pitted fruit symbolizes regeneration and new life because of its seed. Some families place serkeh, vinegar, on the Haft Seen table as the seventh "s" representing energy and strength. In addition, colored eggs and a mirror are placed on the table. The number of eggs depends on the number of people in the family since each one represents member of the family. According to ancient legend, it was believed that the 10 Beverly Hills Weekly world was placed on the horn of a Taurus, and at the exact time of Now Ruz, when the Taurus flips the world to the other horn, the eggs would move on the mi.rror. There is also a gold fish on the Haft Seen, which represents life and peace. If you watch closely you will notice that the goldfish become active at the exact second of the change of the year, exalting their excite- ment at the beginning of the year. Well-known Iranian celebrity, Ardavan Mofid, explains that every seed nourished on the Haft Seen represent things that mother earth gave us. Mofid interprets Now Ruz as a representation of the sea, sky and mother earth whose elements are represented on the Haft Seen table. He explains that Now Ruz is not a secular celebration, but rather a celebration of life and thanksgiving. Now Ruz is a national holiday where people from all reli- gions join to celebrate the New Year. In fact, Now Ruz is a Zorastrian cele- bration that Muslims, Jews and Christians have adopted. NOW RUZ COMES TO BEVERLY HILLS Approximately seven years ago a group of Iranian women joined forces to raise awareness about Iranian culture in the Beverly Hills schools and the community at large. The Iranian American Parents Association was estab- lished in 1992 to help parents deal with the issues of their children's assim- ilation to a new culture. What began as a small group working to help fam- ilies, is now a group of thousands who raise funds for schools and honor teachers in the district. Their Now Ruz celebrations began as a way of hon- oring teachers. Nanaz Pirnia, the founder and president, explains their first Now Ruz celebration as a small gathering at a member's home. In 1997,