Tag Archives: Persian America

Nowruz (Persian New Year) Celebration

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: Pre-Med Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/7/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant, identified as SK, and myself, GK.

SK: One unique holiday that I celebrate is Nowruz, which is known as Persian New Year. This year it fell on March 20, but the date changes each year.

GK: Why is that?

SK: This is because the holiday falls on the first day of Spring Equinox. So it depends on when exactly the sun crosses the celestial equator.

GK: How do you usually celebrate this holiday?

SK: Um, there’s a lot of things we do. One of the more intriguing events we partake in is called Chaharshanbe Suri. This is a tradition where you jump over the fire, as it serves as a way to purify yourself from all of the sin you’ve partaken in. We also usually have a big feast where we eat Kashke Bademjan (Eggplant Dip), and chicken soltani. 

GK: How long have you been celebrating this for?

SK: It’s been 16 years now. 

Background: The informant, who comes from Persian heritage, knows of this holiday due to the fact he has been celebrating it for the majority of his life. His father, was originally born in Iran, migrated to the U.S. when he was a kid. And with this move, he brought the many traditions and customs along with him. Those traditions have thus been passed on to his son, who deeply enjoys the holiday as it brings his whole family together throughout the start of spring. 

Context: The informant and I discussed this holiday over Facetime. 

My Thoughts: It was very intruiging to hear about the Persian New Year and how different their traditions are vs. our New Year traditions here in the United States. I feel like ours is more of a celebration, while there’s is more of a reflection and cleansing. You could see this through the Chaharshanbe Suri. Hearing about these traditions of the informants makes me want to be more reflective while celebrating New Year’s and think of what I can improve on for the next year. In addition, it was really interesting to hear about how this holiday is connected with the earth cycle. I’ve always wondered why some holidays change dates each year, and that answered my question.

Persian Islamic Well Worship Story

--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 so where did you hear this story?”

AM “Okay so this is a story that my uncle told me, and I’ve heard it through my family members again and again, and this is an interesting one because it’s where you see a certain perspective of reason and logic sort of come to a halt, in regards to like certain religious principles that may be in existence in islamic culture, and so one of the stories that I heard is that there is one of these um … like a key religious figure in Islam, and he’s know as like the hero of time, they call him like, Imam Zamam, um a good way of thinking about it is like greek mythology where theres like a god that resembles something, like how Zues represents something, and so in this particular part of Persian Islamic culture this messenger represents time. And so there’s this story about how he lives in the bottom of a well, like he went and he fell down this well and he cannot return until Time is ready, kinda like how Jesus Christ is going to return, he cannot get out until it’s ready. And so he’s stuck at the bottom of this well, and so now people have this cultural event where they would go and they would visit the well and they would throw things inside of the well, I guess to kinda help him out in his time of need because he’s kinda stuck in there. And then the government didn’t like the fact that women and men were I guess conglomerating at this well to participate in the same event, and so like it’s a very sexist culture and the government didn’t like that women and men were I guess meeting at the same place together. And so because of that they made a different variation of the story, they incorporated a change, and so because of that they made two wells, so all the women would go to one well and all the men would go to the other well in order to throw various goodies inside and conduct their prayers. So there’s many questions, like how can the hero and messenger of time, of TIME, how can he not escape a well? And how can he be in two places at the same time. And so like that’s something that growing up I’ve been told a lot, and like it teaches me to think for myself and I guess to be the black sheep and not just brainlessly follow a herd”

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. While my informant was born in the US, he spent many of the early years of his life with his immediate family in Iran. Ultimately, his family disagreed with the way that the government used religion to enforce restrictive laws, and were persuaded to leave. This story is an example of Persian folklore that spread to undermine the government. He cites the story as teaching people to learn to think for themselves, and not to blindly trust the government. However, his family also used this stories, and others like it, to justify why they left Iran and why they are not Muslim.

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:

This piece was really interesting to me because it was an example of meta-folklore. It’s almost like an origin story for how these traditions came to be in order to undermine them. By revealing that the government created a new religious monument and tradition, the story invalidates both. It implies that because these traditions were created by a government, they are not ‘real’ religious traditions. This shows the conflict between religious and governmental authority within the culture. The story acts as a resistance piece in response to a government, and was told to my informant to undermine its actions. 

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.