Nowruz 2013 Guide – Celebrate Persian New Year in Vancouver

Spring flowers. Photo credit: Flickr user tejvan

Spring flowers. Photo credit: Flickr user tejvan

Iranian Canadians and some 300 million more people worldwide celebrate the start of spring with Nowruz – an international holiday falling on March 21, 2013.

Nowruz (meaning new day) marks the vernal equinox when day and night are exactly equal. For many cultures this 3,000-year-old holiday is not only the start of spring, it’s the start of the new year. Naturally, the new year means a proper party. You’ll find month long celebrations taking place in Iran, the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East.

In Vancouver, where we have a strong representation of Iranian Canadians (like me), there are many events to help you get out of the house and celebrate more daylight, spring blooms and the renewal of nature.

From bazaars to galas, picnics and fire jumping (!), here are the events and activities you need to know about for Nowruz 2013 in Vancouver.

Vancouver Nowruz Events

1) Spring and Norouz Festival by the Canadian Iranian Foundation, Mickey McDougall Gym, March 10
If you go, you must dance. Expect DJs, live traditional music, folk dancers, arts and crafts, Persian cuisine and a kids’ zone.

2) Celebrate Nowruz at CBC Vancouver: Sangha in Concert
Sangha is a well loved Persian/Arabic/Indian ensemble on Vancouver’s world music scene. The group mixes Persian, Indian, and Arabic musical traditions into a modern, energetic and vital ensemble. Excerpts of the concert will air on CBC Radio One’s North by Northwest, hosted by Sheryl MacKay, on the morning of March 17, to help welcome the first day of Spring.

3) The 23rd Annual Fire Festival (Chaharshanbe Suri), Ambleside, March 19
Live music, fire jumping, Persian food and dance performances.

4) Norooz Gala, Shangri-La Hotel, March 22
The favourite, fancy-pants gala for the young pretty things with a DJ and complimentary glamour shots with tickets. Canapes via Market by Jean-Georges.

5) Norouz Gala: Persian New Year Celebration, Marriott Pinnacle Hotel, March 23
A buffet dinner, Persian stand-up, the Pars National ballet and more.

6) UBC Persian Club events, details forthcoming
We’re still waiting for UBC’s Persian Club to spill deets on their annual events including a Persian poetry slam, picnics and more.

Haft-Seen (Persian: هفت‌سین‎) or the seven 'S's is a traditional table setting of Nowruz. Photo credit: Flickr user Hamed Saber

Haft-Seen (Persian: هفت‌سین‎) or the seven ‘S’s is a traditional table setting of Nowruz. Photo credit: Flickr user Hamed Saber

More About Nowruz

Like all good bashes, Nowruz is spread throughout the month of March. Although the new year starts on March 20 at 4:03am, Iranians prepare for the equinox and continue the festivities for 13 days after.

Because the equinox symbolizes a fresh start – nature’s rebirth after winter – many Iranians subject their houses to a serious spring cleaning. Haju Firuz, a troubadour with a black-painted face and red clothing – sings in the streets to herald spring.

Families also germinate wheat, lentil, or barley seeds in a pot; the new green shoots (sabzeh) symbolize rebirth and go on the Haft Sin table: a spread of items starting with “s” that represent the new year. Other Haft Sin symbols include hyacinths, coins, garlic, vinegar, intricately painted eggs and goldfish.

On the New Year’s Day, families dress fancy and start the 12-day celebrations by visiting their family and friends, starting with elders. Gifts go from the older generations to the younger. On the 13th day families leave their homes for an all-day picnic: Sizdah Bidar.

Nowruz is the ideal multicultural celebration to join in on, whether or not you’re of Iranian decent. The holiday promotes peace and solidarity between generations and the spirit of  neighbourliness!

Want more updates on Vancouver fun? Follow me on Twitter @TJerven

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