Context: I was sitting at a restaurant in West Hollywood with a good friend who is also of Persian descent, discussing our respective families plans of celebrating the Persian New Year. In the piece, my informant is identified as R.M. and I am identified as D.S.
Background: My family is one that has assimilated more towards American culture, and does not perform all traditional rituals performed on Nowruz. However, R.M. and her family take the New Year very seriously, and plan large gatherings for the holiday every year.
DS: “So what are you guys doing tomorrow night”
RM: “My mom is going all out as usual. We’re having like 60 people over, I have to help her set up all day tomorrow”
DS: “What do you guys even do? Jumping over the fire and all that?”
RM: “Oh yeah, there’s definitely going to be a bonfire. She bought a bunch of goldfish too, setting up that whole haft table and all.”
DS: “What else goes on the table?”
RM: “A bunch of spices, a mirror, the goldfish, some money, fruits, eggs. There’s definitely some more that I’m forgetting but you get the idea of it.”
DS: “Are you going to jump over the fire this year”
RM: “I think so, I don’t know, I always just get so nervous getting close to it every year but my parents say it’s important so I want to try it out.”
Analysis: Each aspect of the setting traditions of the New Year are for specific metaphorical purposes. For example, jumping over the bonfire is thought to ensure good health for the new year. The mirror is to reflect on the past year. The goldfish is to represent new life and rebirth. The money is to encourage prosperity. The eggs for fertility. Each family often celebrates and prepares differently, with each component on their table representing what they want to attract in the year to come. The Persian culture is very poetic and spiritual, so it comes as no surprise that the culture chooses certain items for these grand representations.