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By: Ava Arasan
I lept into the plush back seat of my mother’s car with excitement and anticipation scattered throughout my thoughts. We were on our way to the Rose Market, a Persian bazaar near my house. The thick, hearty scent of koobedeh, a lamb kabob, laced with the delicate aroma of sweets wafted around me as I entered the store. Melodious conversations spilled from the mouths of the shoppers in their native tongue, Farsi. My mother dashed around each aile, piling items needed for our Norooz, the Persian new year celebration. I stood in the center of the store, greedily imbibing the scents, sights, and conversations floating through the air around me. From the point of a bicultural, half Indian, half Persian person born in the United States, I often have trouble balancing the specific details of all three of my cultures. Norooz is a celebration where I am free to explore my ancestry and the traditions those before me have participated in for so many years.
Norooz is a 3,000-year-old holiday that celebrates the inauguration of the Persian New Year. The first Norooz celebrations may have taken place during the reign of Cyrus the Great in the sixth century B.C. It is celebrated on the twentieth or twenty-first of March every spring season by many cultures and ethnicities speckled across the globe. In preparation for Norooz, people often display a sofreh by placing specific items on a small table in their houses.
My mom returned to me with a cart full of items for our sofreh. Distant memories were freshly reflected through every pink flower petal, sour spice, and ripe apple in the cart. Every year, a sofreh should have seven items starting with the letter seen from the Persian alphabet, as well as other little treats such as pastries and candies. The items my mother picked were as following: somagh: a sour Persian spice that represents the brilliant red hues of sunrise, serkeh: white vinegar that symbolizes age and patience, senjed: dried fruit from a lotus plant that represents love, samano: a sweet fruit pudding that depicts affluence, sabzeh: bright green sprouts that symbolize rebirth, sib: an apple that represents health, and finally sir: a wand of garlic that portrays medicine.
Finally finished with our Persian New Year haul, my mother and I headed back to our house to set up for the festivities later that night. In the end, we purchased the items for our sofreh, kabob, and some delightful pastries with powdered sugar sprinkled over the top. The rest of my family was coming over to our house later that night to celebrate all together. Once home, we readied the sofreh and tidied up the rest of the house. I eagerly rushed upstairs to my room to try on my Persian clothes. I simply felt closer to another part of myself when participating in such traditions.
The doorbell finally rang and in poured my family. A German uncle, an aunt from Texas, and the rest of my Persian family took a seat in our living room excitedly, chittering about recent events and important details of their lives. Once our supper was finally ready, we all filed into the dining room and sat down. Flavorful aromas of traditional spices and dishes swirled around me as I helped set the table. Colorful rice, juicy kabobs, and crispy tadeek, a type of rice cracker, had been neatly arranged across the table along with a vegetable salad and a traditional Persian yogurt drink called dooj. Settled down and comfortable, we all commenced devouring the feast in front of us.
After dinner, we all helped clean and wash dishes; then proceeded back to the living room to converse more and eat an “Americanized” dessert of ice cream and apple pie. By that point of the night, like so many other family gatherings, it was around eleven before everyone decided it was time to return home. With a final hug, kiss, and “I love you,” the night had ended and our festivities came to a close. I have always enjoyed celebrating Norooz with my family. It gives me a taste of my pure culture and heritage, something that is often overshadowed in daily life. I hope in future years, we will all join together to celebrate this holiday. That night, satisfied with my evening and what I had learned, I closed my eyes and drifted off into a tranquil slumber.