Norouz is one of the ancient and national celebrations of Persia that was initiated during the period of Jamishid Shah. The Iranian new year starts on the first day of spring. The tradition of this celebration is only for the enjoyment and originality including Chahar Shanbe Souri that occurs at the dusk of the last Tuesday of the old year. It is celebrated by making bonfires and jumping over the fire while chanting. This is mainly originated because of the importance of fire in the Zoroastrian religion, which is the first religion Iranians adopted. Spring cleaning is also important since everything needs to be cleaned in the house and if there are old and non-functional appliances they should be replaced with newer ones. The Haft Seen table consists of 7 items that are plants or products of plants and all start with an S in the Persian language such as grown wheat or grown lentil, apples, Senjed fruit, Hyacinth, Samanou (a sweet pudding made of germinated wheat), Sumac and garlic. In this day, which is the first day of the solar year everyone wears new clothing and the elders give gifts to children. In get togethers, fruits, pastries and tea are served. On the thirteenth day of “Farvardin”, the first month of the year, families spend the day outdoors and play games, sing and dance. This day coincides with April 1st and ironically Iranians, too, play practical jokes on each other on that day.
With the recent happenings in Iran, which raise the underlying question of why we ended up here, one might ask what really the identity of Iranian women is. It is obvious that the government of Iran is trying to change the way women see themselves and who they identify with. This is actually a very good question.
Research shows that Iranian women had a higher place in society and were treated as equal to men in the ancient Persia. The King’s mother and Principal wife led an autonomous life.
“The Principal wives had their own court, could sign agreements with their own seal, and had unlimited access to the King. Women could choose their own husbands, and did so when they were not asked to marry for political purposes. Concubines were often non-Persian women and, accordingly, could not marry into royalty but were still respected as women of high rank. Xerxes I (r. 486-465 BCE) added a harem building at Persepolis close to his palace, suggesting the elevated status of the women.” (See Women In Ancient Persia)
During the Achaemenid Period, women could serve in the military. “Scholar Kaveh Farrokh notes that ‘tombs attesting to the existence of Iranian-speaking women warriors have [been found in Iran and] also been excavated in Eastern Europe’ (128).’’ (See Women In Ancient Persia) Wealthy businesswomen existed and had their own entourage and commanded their own workforce.
“Women labored alongside men in the workforce and were often supervisors and managers. There was no difference in pay based on gender; one’s salary was based solely on one’s level of skill and experience in the job. Pregnant women, however, received higher wages as did new mothers for the first month after the birth of their child.”(See Women In Ancient Persia)
So why are we still struggling to define the identity of Iranian women?
Also called Charshanbe Soori is an Iranian festival celebrated on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. It is the first festivity of the Noruz Celebrations festival (the Iranian New Year). The last eve between Tuesday and Wednesday of the year, before the vernal equinox. Also observed by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Tajikistan, Turkey (by Azeris, Kurds and Persians).
Jumping over the fire
Before the start of the festival, people gather brushwood in an open, free exterior space. At sunset, after making one or more bonfires, they jump over the flames, singing sorkhi-ye to az man, zardi-ye man az to, literally meaning “[let] your redness [be] mine, my paleness yours”, or a local equivalent of it. This is considered a purification practice.