Celebrating Nowruz in Vancouver at a time of social distancing
March 23, 2020
Last Thursday was Persian New Year or Nowruz. The 3000-year-old Nowruz celebrations take place for two weeks surrounding the spring equinox. Spring is at the centre of celebrations because the Persian holiday emphasizes themes of nature, fertility and new life.
Park People’s own Vancouver Program Coordinator, Masheed Salehomoum (Mash) usually heads to West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park the Tuesday before the New Year. However, this year, Covid-19 and social distancing protocols kept her away from Charashanbe Suri celebrations.
The traditions of Charashanbe Suri, which happen the Tuesday before the spring equinox, include a Fire Festival. In previous years, thousands of people headed to Ambleside Park in West Vancouver to take turns jumping over a series of small bonfires to symbolize purifying themselves before the new year. The celebration is usually a lively celebration with live music and food trucks serving up traditional Persian food like kebabs and stew.
Mash said that, “Charashanbe Suri is a park event that’s highly anticipated. It’s really disappointing that it couldn’t happen this year, on the 30th anniversary of the event.” Instead of heading to the park for fire jumping, Mash stayed home and jumped over a candle.
“The gathering in Ambleside is one way that I stay connected to my Persian heritage. So, I’m feeling that loss and I expect that the rest of the Iranian community feels it too.”
April 1, 2020 marks the 13th day of the new year. On this day, Persians typically head outdoors to spend the day in nature with friends and family. This holiday, named Sizdah Bedar, meaning “Getting Rid of Thirteen,” helps Persians set the stage for good fortune by staying outdoors on this unlucky day. People commonly refer to Sizdah Bedar, as “nature day.” On this day, Persians worldwide spend the day picnicking outdoors, dancing, singing, playing in nature and soaking in the spring air. Part of the tradition is to tie a knot in the grass and place it in a moving current while making a wish for the year.
Obviously, this year Sizdah Bedar will be dramatically different for Persians across Canada and the world. We asked Mash how her family plans to celebrate in the context of social distancing. “This year, I won’t picnic with my extended family or friends in the park as we would typically do on Sizdah Bedar. Instead, I’m going to go for a long hike outdoors with my partner. I’ll take wheatgrass and tie a knot and place it into the water. I’m grateful for what we have, and hope to connect with everyone soon.”
We wish you Eid-e Nowruz Mobaarak عيد نو روز مبارک