Tag Archives: Nowruz

Spring Cleaning and Shopping: A Nowruz Tradition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi

Background: The informant is a sophomore film student at USC. He learned the tradition from practicing it with his mother’s side of the family during his childhood in San Ramon, CA. His mother was born in the US to Iranian parents and moved back to Iran for a brief period of time before moving back to the US. It is worth noting that the informant prefers the term Persian rather than Iranian when discussing his cultural background.  

Context: The following is transcribed from an over-the-phone interview with the informant. The informant and I are well acquainted so the discussion was casual.

Piece:

Informant: “Nowruz begins on the spring equinox. I think usually it’s the first day of the month, there’s an Iranian month, Farvardin. But like it’s not only the beginning of spring it’s also the first day of this new month sort of how like January 1st is our new year. And so some of the ways that it’s celebrated..the big thing that I remember about it. I know there’s spring cleaning and there’s shopping. That’s actually, that’s literally a part of the culture. You clean the whole house and you go shopping.”

Collector: Do you shop for clothes or a specific item?

Informant: “It’s like everything. It’s sort of like… It’s like ‘out with the old, in with the new,’ you know. Which is kind of funny because it’s like super commercial but it’s also at the core of the holiday.”

Analysis: To me, deep cleaning and then shopping seems like an intuitive way to start anew, and yet it has never been a facet of my New Year’s tradition. Cleaning the entire house and then replacing old objects with new ones symbolizes rebirth, a new start, a new year. The holiday takes place in spring, a season associated with regeneration from winter and new life. By incorporating this tradition into the holiday, the participants regenerate from the past year and materially begin anew. I thought it was interesting that he noted the commercial aspect of the holiday as “funny,” indicating that he views holidays existing in a realm somewhat separate from consumerism despite most American holidays revolving around commercial products.

Eidee : Receiving Money for Nowruz

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi

Background: The informant is a sophomore film student at USC. He learned the tradition from practicing it with his mother’s side of the family during his childhood in San Ramon, CA. His mother was born in the US to Iranian parents and moved back to Iran for a brief period of time before moving back to the US. It is worth noting that the informant prefers the term Persian rather than Iranian when discussing his cultural background.  

Context: The following is transcribed from an over-the-phone interview with the informant. The informant and I are well acquainted so the discussion was casual.

Piece: 

Informant: “The reason I’m saying Nowruz really weirdly is that I usually call it eid. So the money, the two dollar bills my grandma would give us that’s called eidee. Usually people don’t give gifts for eidee like eidee refers to a gift you’ve received because of new years but most people don’t give like a physical gift, most people give money. So like I might get like a twenty dollar or a five dollar, you know like it’s usually small. It’s very symbolic it’s sort of like I think Chinese New Year, you get like the little red envelope. So it’s like a similar thing. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a physical thing as a gift for eidee, maybe my mom just gives me chocolates, you know. It’s just a small little gesture.

Collector: “Is it usually family members who give it to you?”

Informant: “In my experience, the way my family we have the literal family but we also have like you know family friends who are essentially family who I would get eidee from. I mean it’s whoever comes to the [Nowruz/Eid] party. But like my mom would not give eidee to her sister, it’s really more of a thing for the kids. In my family it’s really just a thing for the kids. Maybe my grandma gives it to her daughters, but I doubt it.”

Analysis: Children are often seen as the future, the new/next generation. Because of this, many cultures celebrate the new year by dawning fortune upon children. I’ve heard of a very similar tradition for the Chinese New Year, as mentioned by the informant, in which children are given red envelopes filled with money. I was surprised to hear the informant refer to Nowruz as “Eid” because this is an Arabic, rather than Farsi, word for “festival, holiday.” Eidi is also a word used to refer to a gift given by elders to a child (usually money) usually for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This practice is very similar to the one described by the informant based on what the gift is and who is giving and receiving it.The informant specified the spelling of “eidee” rather than eidi, but their similar pronunciation and practice is worth noting. In either case, the practice appears to be a way for the past generation (the elders) to invest in the future generation as liminal demarcations of time pass. 

Persian-American Nowruz Fire Jumping

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Persian
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Fernando Valley
Date of Performance/Collection: April 15, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (AM).

CB “Okay, start by telling me why you participate in this event, what you call the event, and who  you participate with”

AM “I celebrate Persian new year every year because I am Perisan and both of my family members that I live with are also Persian. And they grew up in Iran. And because of that they grew up celebrating certain religions and certain customs throughout their lifetime.  So now they also allowed me to grow up in their roots and experience that Iranian culture that I wasn’t really able to experience because I live in the United States now.

“So one of the small events that I celebrate with my family is when we go to a park to celebrate Persian New Year., also known as Nawruz. At this park there are normally other Persians who agregate here and there’s various events that they do for customs, and one of them is that at night time they build a fire, a nice big fire, and they play Persian music and everyone sort of lines up and they take turns jumping over the fire. [laughs] Yeah, that’s one particular thing that occurs a lot

. . .

CB “Can you talk about the fire jumping thing? Is that supposed to symbolize anything do you know”

AM “Hmm. I’m sure it symbolizes something, I don’t know the finite definition of it but I can give you my interpretation of it because that’s sort of what folklore revolves around, right?  So my vision of it is a renewal of life, kinda like when a phenix dives into a fire and is reborn, and so its a meaning of a new year; a new life. So when you jump through it you’re kinda saying this is a new me now. And this is a new year as I branch into my new life.”

Background:

My informant is a Persian-American, first generation American citizen. He lives with his mother, father, grandmother, and aunt who all spent a majority of their life in Iran, and all communicate mainly in Farsi. A large amount of his extended family still lives in Iran, and so he has often talked about feeling disconnected from Persian culture. The Nowruz celebrations that he described happen every year in a park in the LA area. He and his family drive about 2 hours to get there, and it’s one of the only times during the year that they are able to connect with the larger Persian community in the area. The fire-jumping tradition that he spoke about seems to be a way to actively initiate a fresh state. I think that he and his family value this event so much because they are separated from the rest of their family, and their culture. By meeting with other Persians every year to celebrate a new beginning, at the same time that their family in Iran is celebrating Nowruz, they are able to bring their Persian culture, and family by extension, with them into their new year.

Context:

I know this informant fairly well, and we have often talked about his culture. When I was given this assignment, he was the first person I thought to ask. I interviewed him over Zoom, and we chatted a lot about the role of culture for immigrant Americans. We had a very comfortable conversation, as we had many times before.

Thoughts:

I was really interested in the fire-jumping aspect of Nowruz. Many different cultures emphasize the idea of new beginnings around the new year. However, for my informant, his Nowruz celebration gave him a ritualistic way of acting out this new beginning. It made it so that it was almost the action, not the holiday, that symbolized this rebirth. I also thought that it was especially interesting that he referenced a popular piece of western folklore, the phoenix, when describing his traditions. I think that this represents a large part of his assimilation to American and western culture. While he is still distinctly Persian and tied to his roots, the way he thinks of his celebrations is defined by both his heritage, and his surroundings. This exemplifies the development of Persian-American culture as a separate unit from either culture.

Nowruz: Persian New Year Celebrations

--Informant Info--
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

“Nowruz happens on the spring equinox, it’s the New Year so it’s celebrating new beginnings and whatnot. So then you set up a table called the halfsin table, and it has…I don’t know how many… and they all start with S in farsi. and it’s stuff like an apple, which represents…something. You spend time with family, jumping over this fire thing…people light a little fire and jump over it, from the old year to the new one.”

Background

Informant

Nationality: Persian–American

Location: Washington D.C.

Language: English

When I asked the informant what the holiday means to them, they responded with the following:

“It’s interesting because I didn’t grow up in a super Iranian household, but this holiday was a way to connect with my Iranian heritage…I don’t speak Farsi or whatever but this is a way for me to connect with the heritage.”

Context

The informant has one Iranian parent and did not grow up in a strongly Iranian community. However, she still thinks very fondly of Nowruz and engages in celebrating it each year with her father, who is her Iranian parent, and her brother.

Notes

The formation of an individual’s identity is an intriguing process, and it is interesting that the informant feels an emotional bond to the holiday despite not having many other cultural ties to Iran. Regardless of identity, holidays such as Nowruz seem to bind families closer together.