Persian New Year allows students to connect with their culture


Contributed by Nilu Dadgar and Kimiya Jazayeri

Serving as the focal point of all Persian New Year celebrations, the Haft-Sin features a variety of items, each representing a resolution for the new year.

On the eve of the spring equinox, senior Nilu Dadgar brims with excitement as she packs her things up to leave school early. She swiftly says goodbye to her teacher and heads home to celebrate the Persian New Year. Her celebration, along with the celebration of many others, is filled with family, friends, ceremonial objects, delicious food, dancing and love.

Being half Persian myself, one of the best parts of celebrating Persian New Year is being able to spend time with family. I get to reconnect with my distant relatives that live both across the country and internationally. The house we all gather into is always erupting with energy as people constantly catch up and chat.

This year, Persian New Year lands on Sunday, Mar. 20. The celebration begins the week prior to the new year. While the holiday goes unnoticed for many, the population of students who observe it look forward to celebrating as it gives them the opportunity to feel proud and express part of their identity.

For Dadgar, the festivity allows her to connect with her culture.

“We all just sit and we put on the little Persian TV. There’s this network that counts down and we count down, my mom, dad and I, all three of us [together]. Then, we have a huge party with all of our family friends,” Dadgar said.

While Persian New Year celebrations range from person to person, the Haft-Sin is the staple. As a ceremonial table with seven sacred items representing wishes for the new year, it is quintessential to the holiday. The items of the Haft-Sin can vary, but the meanings tend to remain the same.

On the Haft-Sin, there are items such as a bulb of garlic, an apple, sprouts, vinegar, wheat pudding, the spice sumac and a fruit called silverberry. Each of these items represents a resolution for the new year, including life, happiness, love, good health and beauty. Other items like hyacinth flowers, coins or even a goldfish can adorn the table.

According to Dadgar, Persian New Year is a holiday that celebrates love in all forms, whether that be with a small group of friends and family or with dozens of immediate and distant relatives.

“My parents have been friends with the same people for years because they all immigrated to the U.S. at the same time. I’m friends with the kids of my parents’ friends,” Dadgar said.

Despite junior Kimiya Jazayeri ringing in the new year with fewer people, her celebration has just as much love.

“A week before Persian New Year starts, we go grocery shopping as a family. We go to a Persian store and get the seven items that you put on your Haft-Sin. The day of the holiday, this year it will be Sunday, we will gather in the morning and there will be lots of crying when you hear the new year has officially started. Then we have a very big lunch. It’s very family oriented,” Jazayeri said.

As a child, I remember traveling six hours to Philadelphia to my great aunt’s house. When I arrived, it was nearly exploding with family from all over the country, some had even flown in to celebrate with us. Walking through the doorway, I could immediately take in the beauty of our Haft-Sin. I could stand there for hours, mesmerized by the goldfish. Everything was delicately placed in ornate dishes. The Haft-Sin was truly a sight to behold.

It took time for Persian New Year to become Dadger’s favorite holiday.

“When I was younger, my culture was just this thing that I was embarrassed of. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to embrace and explain it. If I were asked now, 100 percent I would be able to talk about [my culture]. When everyone here just says, ‘my parents are from here,’ or, ‘I’m not from anywhere,’ it was hard for me at a young age to open up about my culture. My parents went through that. Definitely with age, I’ve been able to gain comfort with it and be able to talk about it,” Dadgar said.

Jazayeri has not felt uncomfortable talking about her culture but said it can be hard for her to fully explain it to her non-Persian and non-celebrating friends.

“When I talk about it with my American friends, I describe it like Christmas. Not because they’re even similar in any way, but it’s just because Christmas is a time for love in American culture. Even though the Persian New Year is not a commercialized holiday here, it’s celebrated by everyone,” Jazayeri said.

In the end, it is the meaning and the emotion behind the holiday that allows Jazayeri to be proud of her culture.

“My favorite part is the love of the holiday to be entirely honest. I think that it’s just a time when everything else is forgotten, like any bad blood that you have in the family, it’s a time for healing and you can really feel the love in the air,” Jazayeri said.

For Dadgar, her close web of family and friends that she has celebrated the holiday with for years have helped her to be more open with her Persain roots.

“They were more mature than me and understood these things. So I think I was able to say, “Yes, I can talk about this. I’m not embarrassed at this. This is something I’m proud of,” Dadgar said.

For me, it’s been a journey to understand the complexity and history of both my family and the country I descend from. I owe my growth to family and friends like Dadgar’s and important traditions like Jazayeri’s.

To those who celebrate, Happy Nowruz!