Friday, March 24, 2006

happy belated new year

welcome to 1385, everybody! sorry for the belated greetings (it was last monday), but i’ve been busy partaking in new year activities. in the states, ringing in the upcoming year consists mainly of throwing a giant party during which you have two main goals: stay coherent enough to be able to count backwards from 10 and find someone cute to kiss at midnight. once the party’s over, so the new year celebration.

not so in iran. as i mentioned in my previous post, the festivities last the duration of several weeks and there are many traditions to uphold. on the actual eve of the new year, everyone wears brand new outfits from head to toe (including socks and underwear). they sit around a special table spread called a haft-seen that contains seven items, each starting with the letter “s” (like vinegar, sumac, and coins), and each representing some aspect of fortune and well being for the year to come. every family stays in its own home as the new year turns and eats a dinner of white fish and rice with noodles.

once the countdown is over, there are 13 days to do what’s called eid-deedani, where people visit the houses of all their friends and relatives one-by-one. and the ritual is the same in each house. wear the new outfit, sit around in the parlor and get fed nuts and pastries, hand out crisp new money to the kids, and eat a virtual feast of every special dish the host can manage to prepare. imagine thanksgiving happening every day for two weeks straight. the ceremony is so ubiquitous that pastry shops around town are cleaned out and all the banks run out of cash. the streets are filled with masses of families, dressed to the nines, on their way to and from their loved ones’ homes. i myself have been shuttling back and forth from place to place each evening, smiling politely and giving my requisite well-wishes as the tea is poured and the pistachios shoved in my face.

back home, the iranian new year is barely a blip on my americanized radar, but here the whole country stops to herald the coming of spring. it’s been fun, but tiring and hard on the hips (after my fifth straight night of feasting my pants have started to plead for mercy). i still have a few more houses to go, but i hope to make it to the other side soon, sanity and figure intact.

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