Iran: The last Wednesday of the year

“On the last Wednesday of the year, people celebrate with fireworks and actual fire. This day is less than a week before New Years, so we mostly celebrate that with fire. Some people will make fires and jump over the fire to symbolically get the energy from the fire. There is also music and dancing in the streets. Oh, another thing is that people will cover their faces so they won’t be notified [identified] and go to people’s doors and ask for food. It’s like trick or treating but for the poor; when they go around, they get money and food and it depends on the person giving them the stuff. Anyone can do this, either for fun or they’re poor.”

The celebration of fire for this holiday can be traced back to the ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. In Zoroastrianism, fire is a symbol of purity, goodness and animation, so those values may be held highly by Iranian society still today, which is why some actively try to absorb that energy by physically placing themselves close to it.

As for the “trick or treating,” my friend often tells me that the Iranian people are good, but the government as a whole is corrupt. This custom is an example of that, of how perhaps the common or middle class people will help out the poor because the poor ask for help and need it. However, hiding their faces can mean either 2 things: 1) it can denote a sense of shame for begging is not esteemed in most cultures or 2) it’s a way to get help from Iranian society but not get in trouble with the larger, more oppressive entity of the Iranian government.