Persian New Year Festival - Chahar-Shanbeh Souri
Tuesday, March 17, 6:00-10:00PM
Persian Center, 2029 Durant Avenue, Berkeley, 510-848-0264
Jump over a bonfire for ‘Chahar-Shanbeh Souri’ to shake off the darkness of winter and welcome the lightness of spring, a Persian ritual passed down since ancient Zoroastrian times. The Persian New Year Festival is called Chahar-Shanbeh Souri, which literally means ‘Eve of Wednesday’ because the festival is always held on the last Tuesday of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox or first moment of spring.
In Iran (and parts of Afghanistan and India), it is customary for people to create bonfires in front of their homes throughout the neighborhood and jump over them as the sun is setting. Since the Persian Center owns it’s own ‘home’ at 2029 Durant Avenue, it is thrilled to host this event for Iranian-Americans and all who have an interest in the culture. As people jump over the flames they shout, ‘Shorkhi-e to az man o zardi-e man az to!’ which means, ‘Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly pallor!’ ‘Parents jump with their young ones who look wary of going near the flames. Sweethearts jump in tandem. Frat boys try to out leap one another in side-by-side races,’ noted a festival attendee. By engaging the non-Persian community in the fire-jumping festival, the organization hopes to allow a glimpse into beautiful Persian traditions and the culture of the Iranian-American community in the US.
Inside the Persian Center, a traditional altar holds green grass, live goldfish, food and other items representative of spring called the haftseen, or seven s’s, as each item on the table begins with the letter s. Persian music, food, and craft vendors, cultural organizations, and children’s activities add to the nighttime experience. This is a free, family-friendly, non-alcoholic event held outdoors at night, rain or shine.