Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

The first day of spring is a BIG DEAL in Iran and by extension, for Iranian families all over the world.  Iran is on a lunar calendar and the first day of the year is the first day of spring - TODAY!  Homes are cleaned from top to bottom in preparation of the day (My Mother and sisters in law have been cleaning and scrubbing their houses for for weeks.  I did the dishes and vacuumed this morning.  Yay me!) and schools and businesses are closed for a couple of weeks to give everyone a vacation.  I haven't been to Iran for this holiday yet but from the descriptions from Husband and his family, it sounds a lot like the last couple weeks of December here but without the trampling stampedes of shoppers at the mall.

Because we live here and the kids are American in every way except the half of their blood that gives them unibrows and lets them get a beautiful tan in the summer, we make an effort to "do" as many Iranian holidays as we can so they can get a little bit of the culture and heritage of their father.  The Persian New Year, Noruz, is a fun one involving picking out a fish, dying hard-boiled eggs and trying to get something green to grow in time for the holiday.  These are all for the sofreh-ye haft-sinn (I call it the haftseen because honestly, who can remember all those weird words) which means 'Seven Dishes Setting' and is a sort of tablescape of things that each represent something.  

All seven things start with sinn (the letter S in farsi) and represent different things.  Rebirth is represented by sprouts - usually wheat or lentils - but I thought it was supposed to be grass (hard to believe we've been at this for 15 years huh?) so I grew grass seeds in a flowerpot.  Husband and I had a race, he was trying to germinate them on a plate covered up by a wet paper towel but I thought that was totally idiotic so I planted them in dirt and mine grew - his didn't.  WIN!  

Health and beauty are represented by apples.  No problem.  I bought some at the grocery store. 

Love is represented by senjed which apparently is the dry fruit of the wild olive.  It's unobtainable in regular grocery stores so Husband had to pay a ridiculous amount of money at the Persian specialty food store for approximately 8 of the little fuckers.

Garlic represents medicine.  Another easy one, throw a head of garlic in the grocery cart with the apples.

Sumac represents the color of the sunrise.  Apparently when the sun comes up on the new year, good conquers evil.  I was not burned into a pile of ashes this morning so I am suspicious of the validity of this particular claim.

Vinegar represents age and patience.  (I just realized I don't have any vinegar on my haftseen - FAIL!)  How perfect is that?  Aren't old people "vinegary"?  God knows Grandmother certainly has her vinegar-fueled moments!  I don't know about patience but vinegar is a perfect representation of age.  These Persians are pretty smart.

Plus you put colored eggs (Hey!  The Easter Bunny has a Persian cousin called The Noruz Bunny!) in a dish to represent fertility.  I hard boiled the eggs first because babies?  DO NOT WANT!  Everyone has other things they put on the haftseen and Husband's family has always put a copy of the Koran on theirs.  I did too because 1. we have a very pretty one that was getting all dusty anyway and 2. I will be sending a photo of the kids in front of the haftseen to Husband's family and they are devout and I don't want them to know that their daughter in law is evil.  

The last thing on the haftseen is a goldfish (we cheated this year) which represents life and the end of the astral year associated with the constellation Pisces.

I totally cribbed all this info from THIS BOOK which is a cookbook/cheat-sheet for people interested in Persian cooking and culture.  The recipe for noodle soup on page 66 is the best soup ever!

So we're going to have a nice Persian dinner tonight (if I ever get my ass in the kitchen and start cooking it) and then on Sunday we'll have dinner at Brotherinlaw & Awesomesisterinlaw's house where we will stuff ourselves on her awesome cooking (think Thanksgiving dinner with different food) and give the kids presents and crisp new money for the new year.

Here is a pic of a haftseen from the Payvand website:

And here are some super fancy eggs from another blog that the Noruz Bunny brings (She's totally owning you Easter Bunny!):

And here is our humble little haftseen.  This is the first year in many years that we haven't killed the fish before the actual holiday.  One year Things One and Two "fed" it pennies and cheerios and another year the cat got it.  Last year I didn't even bother getting one.  This year's fish is a betta fish, I'm hoping it will last longer than the goldfish did.  His name is Rambo since he's a fighting fish.  Watch out bitches, my fish will kick your ass!

Happy Noruz everyone!


ms. changes pants while driving said...

you're going to KILLL rambo brite? good luck with that. he's RAMBO.

and what does wine represent?

miss you.

The Hotfessional said...

Happy Noruz right back at you! This line:

"Husband had to pay a ridiculous amount of money at the Persian specialty food store for approximately 8 of the little fuckers."

Had me rolling.... seriously. Because this little Arab girl understands. completely. snort.

ChiTown Girl said...

That was very enlightening. Thanks for sharing this tradition with us. It's beautiful!

Shelly... said...

I miss your Persian cooking!!

Jason, as himself said...

Interesting stuff. I don't think I knew one single thing that you mentioned here. Thanks for enlightening me!

BTW--did you get Flat Stanley?

Elena said...

We had betta, and they do kick ass!

Thanks for the history, it was very interesting. The eggs are beautiful!

ms. changes pants while driving said...

you have a flat stanley on the way??!!

LiLu said...

I love family traditions like this! Your kids will thank you someday for creating such a wonderful day for them :-)