The Persian New Year Brings Presents, Altars, Live Goldfish and Delicious Eats

Happy Persian New Year everyone! As of March 21st Iranians around the globe welcomed in the year 1389. (For the record, the Persians do not have clandestine back-to-the-future technology. They count by the Islamic calendar.) Before scampering off to relish spring break and Nowruz (the New Year), international relations student Pahneez Hasseli shared her plans for the New Year with us: “When I get home, me and my mom will set up the Haft Seen. Then we’ll have a bunch of our friends and family over. My mom and aunts will cook enough to feed everyone in Lone Mountain. We’ll give money to the young kids.”

And it’s just not the young kids that get money. I believe the term “make bank, dolla dolla bill ya’ll” correctly describes what our kabob-oriented peers did this past Sunday.

While Hasseli has admittedly never received a designer purse for Persian New Year, she giggled at the mention of Louis Vuitton-shaped gifts and claimed that in this sense she is not “a real Persian,” there was definitely an exchange of cash gifts and presents. “In Iran the new year is like Christmas. So my family here makes sure to get out of work or school early to make it to our house,” said Hasseli. “It’s fun. And I love celebrating traditions from Persian roots.”

The “Haft Seen” which Hasseli described making with her family is kind of like the Persian form of the Dia de los Muertos altar. It is a decorative display of symbolic items arranged in a central area of the house for the viewing (and in some cases tasting) pleasure of guests and family members.

My best friend back home is Persian. So for me this past week marks the time of year when I usually go over to his house and marvel at his family’s Haft Seen in the living room, lusting after the fresh baklava like a 13-year-old boy for Megan Fox until he politely offers me some.  Haft Seens traditionally feature seven items starting with S (in Farsi the letter “sin,”) including “sib” (apples) and “sekka” (newly minted coins). Haft Seens are typically arranged on a beautiful cloth (called a “sofra”) and in addition to the seven s-items can also include items such as flowers, candles, a Koran and a live goldfish.

The goldfish at my bff’s house has somehow defied the laws of nature and survived the past 4 years, growing to the size of a clenched fist. However, due to his suicidal tendencies (this goldfishzilla loves to suddenly leap out of its fish bowl, at all times of the day and night, in order to flop about vigorously), he has been moved to a larger tank in the kitchen. His tank is now right next to the sink in case his sadism necessitates emergency fish-saving splashes of water.

Hopefully this New Year will bring epiphanies and wisdom to the goldfish, particularly about his species’ affinity to staying inside the water. And as for the rest of us, here’s to hoping that 1389 will be a time of shorter-than usual reading assignments and sunny weather.  Until next time, Prosperous Nowruz everybody.


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